Wednesday, 18 December 2013
And wow, what does it say about the broadcasting industry that it is cheaper to buy your own channel than it is to buy advertising space on somebody else's?
Anyway, I only mention this because they've recently been pushing this thing called "Moonfleet".
I don't know anything else about the show. I believe it involves boats. An advert in my news feed suggests it contains Ray Winstone. Whatever. The important thing is it's called Moonfleet.
MOOOOOOOONFLEEET DOT COMMMMMM
Tuesday, 17 December 2013
They're going to start autoplaying video adverts, initially without sound (as they apparently have been with user videos, though I haven't seen any). The idea is that the brightly-coloured movement will attract your eye, and after a moment of staring at it you'll naturally want to click to activate sound.
Because of course, the best way to watch a video is always mute for the first twenty seconds.
But as you read this press release, you realise it's not a new mechanism for getting adverts in front of your eyeballs so Facebook employees can pay their bills. It's "a New Way for Marketers to Tell Stories", a "richer storytelling format for advertisers". It's not just for the benefit of marketers, it's "for people who will discover more great content". And after the video is over, they want to make it "easy to discover more content from the same marketer" - because clearly this is a thing that you desperately want to do, but have hitherto had difficulty doing.
It is entirely possible that these are just flowery words, trying to sell advertising services in a forum that is also visible to users, but the sensibility seems so deeply ingrained that I honestly think they believe it themselves.
That's why it'll never go away. It's not about the money. They actually think they're doing you a favour.
 Of course, the best copywriters do, at least while they are writing it. I am reminded of the Balseraphs, from Steve Jackson Games' In Nomine, who, as fallen angels of absolute truth, can tell the most convincing of lies simply by redefining their own personal reality.
Friday, 29 November 2013
|"Smallville Season 11"|
Most significantly, no red shorts.
And I'm looking at it, and I'm thinking, well, this is actually fine. It looks like Superman.
|"New 52" Superman|
The shorts may have been somewhat of an anachronism; they've been explained as the result of superhero outfits being drawn from acrobat uniforms, breaking up the lines of the human underneath, and yes, drawing attention away from any indecent bulges that may or may not arise from, ahem, sensitive anatomy. Plus they're really easy to draw. Most superhero costumes happen like this: You draw a naked human, and draw lines on it. The classic "Underpants-over-the-tights" look comes from drawing your lines right at the hip. But whatever the roots, over 70+ years the shorts became iconic for Superman. You take that away, and it's not Superman, it's a guy wearing the S-Shield in an alternate universe (and we've had enough of those over the years).
But then I see this Smallville one, and it's not so bad.
|"Man of Steel" Superman|
(As an aside, I love the Smallville Season 11 belt, the way it takes a V-line and a little bit of trim to make that pentagon "buckle" out of negative space.)
But it's still Superman for some reason. Certainly from the waist up, which I find I can't say about New52!Clark. It's something more subtle.
It's the collar.
Kal has always had his shirt end at the collarbone. The cape's shifted around; sometimes it comes from that same line, sometimes it's attached around the back of the neck, but the shirt itself always ends there. The neck itself is bare. I don't know why that's a dealbreaker for me but for some reason it is. It somehow makes it more militaristic, more constricted. I'd say there was a juxtaposition of Clark Kent's work collar and Kal-El's open neckline, but that would sound pretentious. Maybe I just have a neck fetish. Whatever the reason, it seems to be the thing that bothers me most about New 52 Superman.
Saturday, 16 November 2013
I've been suckered in by - I mean taking advantage of - a lot of Comixology sales lately, and this week I picked up Grant Morrison's run on Action Comics. 99¢/69p an issue, you can't pick up the trade paperbacks for that, even on Comixology.
It was ... Ugh, argh, rrmmmm. Hah. Ouch.
Don't get me wrong. It was good. There's no denying it was good. Morrison has fantastic ideas. Brilliant. He knows the magic of words and worlds, every panel on every page is a work of genius. The problem is not that he's not good. The problem is that he's so far past good that it's just awful. So brilliant that it hurts to look directly at it.
It's less evident earlier on, where things are more coherent, but even there there are digressions, non-sequiturs that don't pay off for nearly a year, and usually that's a great thing, the mark of a solid writer who's planned ahead. The first line of the dialogue in the first panel of the first page gives away something that isn't clear until issue 16! And that's great. But it's different when you cut away from a cliffhanger to tell an apparently unrelated story for two months. At that point you're actually detracting from the story.
It becomes - I don't want to say worse - more acute near the end of a run, and I have to wonder if he overestimates the amount of time he has and gets caught up in his famous deconstructed storytelling, because there's an acceleration. By issue 18 here, same as the last issue of Final Crisis, Morrison has hit this kind of plateau, a Zen trance of creativity. He's trying show you how all the plot threads tie together (And they do! They really do! It really is a beautiful tapestry!), it's just that he can't articulate it to us lesser lifeforms in anything approaching a traditional narrative.
|"My face is up here, officer."|
Here the confusion infests fewer pages (during which four new characters who have only been mentioned in passing turn up solely to excise a redundant plot thread) but it is still that distinctive, familiar Morrison morass. To be brutally honest, I feel like the run is saved by the backup features, in which a different creative team expand on or explore some brushed-past plot point or missing events from the main story.
I love a lot about this run. I love the changes to the Superman mythos - Krypto especially, and the deft amalgamation of every rewrite of Brainiac's origins. I love the suggestion that rather than being a simply editorial byproduct of "Flashpoint", the changes to Clark's status quo (his parents' deaths, the annulment of his wedding to Lois) are actually part of this 18-month / 10-year plot arc. And I love that it's done with such art, rather than thrown in on page one with a cloaked villain cacking about how much they hated the old universe anyway (I'm looking at you, Stormwatch).
Although, of course, it is right there on page one, if you go back and look.
Which is brilliant.
Thursday, 17 October 2013
There's 120MB left on my internal storage, 2GB on the "phone storage" partition, a whopping 7.2GB on my SD card**.
I have insufficient storage space for a 6MB download.
* Illustrated here by a photograph of our cat, Ginger, in a box
** It would be a lot less if I had direct control over where Google Play stored its media. Currently it assumes you want it on the "sdcard0" mount, which is how the "phone storage" partition on my phone identifies itself ..
Wednesday, 16 October 2013
This makes sense for pretty much any other product, but not so much with an Android tablet. All the things they are advertising are available to pretty much anyone running Android (except Kindle Fire owners)! Video conferencing, watching movies? Talking sodding Tom? They should be advertising things that are unique to the Hudl. Like, maybe, explaining how it's as fast and powerful as a more expensive one? Or that you can use Clubcard Boost to halve the price?
But no, the man in the street doesn't get the distinction between software and hardware, so we can just show some pretty moving pictures and assure you that this [PRODUCT] is making people's lives better.
Honestly, it's like advertising cars by just showing them driving around, without explaining why this one car is better than any other car that you might ...
Wednesday, 18 September 2013
Every time there is a scandal some wag asks why we use "-gate" as a suffix for scandals. These people know why. They know all about the earlier scandal and/or hotel. They just want to be clever and point out that it's a nonsensical thing that has nothing to do with actual gates.
Well: why do we still say "pants" when people haven't worn pantaloons for centuries? Why do we use "stuff" when talking about things that aren't fabric? Why do we use any word? Because there is a communal understanding about what this particular set of lines or audio pattern "means" that goes beyond its literal or even etymological origins in as little as a few decades of its being coined. Almost as though language is a continually evolving shared delusion, or something.
In any case, if you're going to have a suffix that quickly and easily illustrates a moment when something is metaphorically swung open to reveal hidden truths to the public, you could do worse than "gate". It evokes floodgates, sluice gates, prison gates. Really, we should be grateful that somebody's choice of hotel gave us such a meaningful appellation.
Monday, 2 September 2013
I tend to imagine this confusion came about because Google were just really excited about the fun possibilities of location-aware devices and rushed in without really thinking about what the point would be, but it's entirely possible they just wanted to track your movements and came up with some half-hearted window dressing to con you into willingly consenting being monitored.
Thursday, 15 August 2013
I'm wondering what happens to this music after my subscription expires. They appear in my library exactly like any album that I've previously bought through the service. I'm assuming they differentiate on an internal level, and anything I've just "nabbed" will immediately vanish when I opt out?
Probably that's one of the ways they hope to "encourage" people to stay subscribed. It's notionally very different. Spotify makes it clear they haven't actually "given" you anything, you just have access to it. Google pretend to "give" you the music, so when they take it away you will feel like you've lost something...
Saturday, 29 June 2013
Decades of use in a shared universe has given the H-dial exactly the sort of combination of goofy setup and internal consistency that tickles my buttons; it's daft but it's taken seriously by the characters who encounter it. They acknowledge that it's absurd and yet scary powerful. This, I love. So when an ongoing Dial H series was launched in 2012* why didn't I snap it up?
** Continuity gets a bad rep. When you build a new world your first job is to create that backstory, fill it with a sense that it was here yesterday, and what better way to do that than by referring to past adventures? Bilbo mentions Gandalf's past visits in the opening chapters of The Hobbit, and the events of The Hobbit are referenced again in the Lord of the Rings. Does that make Hobbit any more required reading than the nonexistent accounts of Gandalf's long association with the Shire? Certainly not, but it does enrich and inform the reader of LOTR to have done so. Similarly, if one knows nothing of Chris King one will not be locked out of understanding Dial H, though you may miss some subtleties of the foreshadowing. Alienating new readers is the fault of the writer, not the persistent world.
*** Nobody, for example, breaks out of an otherwise pressing tactical discussion to ask someone what they're doing with that tribble.
Wednesday, 12 June 2013
Monday, 10 June 2013
Sunday, 2 June 2013
Monday, 20 May 2013
So, the Doctor Who season 8 finale went out. And yes, it was awesome, but I'll be perfectly honest here: the pre-credits alone sold it to me. The next 45 minutes could have been static and I still would have come away feeling giddy with excitement.
Two days later, it is time for cold reflection. How well does this episode fit with what has gone before?
Friday, 15 March 2013
As a result, whenever a friend of mine links to an article they have written in Starburst magazine, this is what I see:
The small browser window only drove it home - as with Starburst, most of these articles were still almost entirely missing at full screen.
So, then, this is the state of the modern web - effectively, big cover photos on every article, inviting you to page down to reach the actual content. On the one hand it's a sign that the web is growing up; publishers are aware that the vertical space is effectively infinite, and readers are comfortable with the journey down, so the notion of people not noticing content that is "below the fold" is increasingly outmoded. The simple fact that I did not notice this for so long is an indication that it's not a bad principle. On reflection, I don't generally load a web page and only look at what's immediately visible - I'll instinctively wheel up and down, forming an overall picture. Possibly this is because I'm now so used to the top 600-or-so pixels being full of advertising, menus and cross-promotional nonsense that my eyes just slide right off. Ad-blockers? Browser plugins? Pah. I just live-edit my own visual input. Easy.
But why did I notice it on the Starburst site? I'll be honest; there's an element of petty competition. As mentioned above, I usually arrive at the site to celebrate and share in a dear friend's success in the field of journalism, so naturally my instinct is to pick holes in it. If it wasn't the site layout I'd be pointing out typos. A charitable interpretation is that I'm helping them improve ("People like to be told when they're wrong, it's how we learn!") but deep down I just want to feel superior.
That said - it's still a bad design.
Thursday, 7 March 2013
We stood on the precipice, looking out over the valley below. "All the way over there, huh," Tony grimaced.
"Yeah, you can just make out the crash perimeter," I confirmed, pointing into the distance. "We came down near vertical, so no matter how far we are above ground level it shouldn't be too far away from there," I started to say, but before I could finish "vertical" I was interrupted by a terrible roar from below.
With a tremendous crashing sound the forest canopy beneath us shook and rippled like the surface of a lake before tearing asunder to reveal the source of the noise - a gargantuan creature rising to its feet. The behemoth was so large that as fast as it moved, its sheer size dictated it took a clear seven seconds to reach its full height. I glanced at Tony as the displaced air rushed past us; he was looking up at the beast in awe, unafraid, already sizing up its potential weak spots and tactical assets.
"What the hell do you call that?" he asked, expecting me to continue my biology travelogue.
"That," I replied, "I call a Big-Ass Mofo."
Tony grinned, and as we simultaniously readied our climbing gear I decided he had to be about as crazy as I was. He helpfully confirmed this with his next declaration.
"Race you to the top!"
Tuesday, 26 February 2013
It seems reasonable that any proceeds will go to the original beneficiaries, the Foundation for the Study of Infant Death.
Monday, 11 February 2013
The "More Caramel" variant is packaged in an easily-identified tan wrapper. "More Nuts", on the other hand, is either the standard Snickers brown or so close as to be indistinguishable. Certainly shop staff appear unable to tell the difference as several times now I've seen them mixed in with the standard bars.
At first I had assumed both variants differed from the standard bar. However I'm no longer certain this is the case. It's possible the wrapper colouring is intended to indicate that "More Nuts" is in fact the standard Snickers bar, temporarily relabelled to reflect that it is not "More Caramel". Either way, the fact that it's not immediately apparent - clearly either I or the shelf stackers have misunderstood - suggests something has gone wrong somewhere.
Friday, 25 January 2013
In October 2011, DC Comics rebooted their fictional universe. Some series were restarted from scratch, while other ones carried on more or less unchanged - albeit with minor background modifications or knock-on effects from other, more substantial revisions. (Green Lantern is the most unsettling one, as it carried on without missing a step ... But it soon became apparent that the Superman comics had decided the Death of Superman arc was no longer canon, effectively removing Hal Jordan's tenure as Parallax and Kyle Rayner's entire origin. Sticking-plaster patches are slowly being introduced, though I'm still not sure how Blackest Night played out. But I digress.)
For the series with a major reshuffle, the month before "the New 52" was an interesting proposition. Not only a last issue, but also the last post of an entire universe, with no worries about your story being problematic for anyone else down the line - or undone by a careless writer who hadn't checked if a character was still available. It was, for writers in an ongoing franchise, a rare opportunity to write an actual, definitive ending.
Writers approached this goldmine with varying degrees of enthusiasm. The Teen Titans got a happy ending, with resolution of romantic subplots and the final defeat of a long-standing enemy. The Justice Society ended with a funeral for a Golden Age hero who gave his life to save the world. Gail Simone destroyed her Secret Six in an inescapable battle royale.
And in JLA, James Robinson gave us a vision of a future that would never be.
I've read before - in message-board comments from the late, great Dwayne McDuffie, comments which allegedly led to his removal from the title - how frustrating it is to write the JLA. It should be the world's greatest gig. All your favourite characters fighting together for great justice! Cosmic threats and wonders of the world! The chance to really make your mark on the DC universe! Sadly the reverse is apparently true.
Because the JLA is such a flagship title, and features so many characters with series of their own, it is hard to avoid becoming embroiled in this month's Big Thing. You plot out a year's story arc, cherry-pick your favourite characters, and are then told that actually that guy is going to spend three months dead around December, and this girl will develop water powers in June, and actually we need all of Autumn to be a big part of Secret Crisis Invasion From Mars so just put all of your own stuff on hold for those three months, okay?
(The continuity problem can be addressed by building your league out of minor characters, or at least ones who currently have no book of their own. The crossover problem can only really be avoided by sticking two fingers up at the editors. Grant Morrison managed to do this to both problems, by writing his JLA plots as contained arcs and catching up on character development in between. Oh, and he had the foresight to become a critically-acclaimed creator beforehand, which helped. But I digress.)
There were certainly signs of that in Robinson's all-too-brief tenure. One issue into his 18-month run, we have a two-issue Blackest Night tie-in followed closely by a four-month Brightest Day event. The roster promoted in adverts and on some covers never really materialised. In at least one case, a character was literally yanked out of the middle of an issue to take part in a crossover. And then, just as he was hitting his stride with the Rise of Eclipso, he had to put his toys away.
So he skipped ahead and presented his characters talking over the events of the intervening weeks. It's clear these off-handed references - presented as a handful of splash pages bristling with creative energy - are the stories he had all planned out but would never get to pen. The robot rebellion. The Saturn-Thanagar War. The Battle for Gemworld. It's unclear whether Robinson is whistful for missed opportunities or bitter with frustrated ambition, but either way he's taking the opportunity to make them real, even if only in a vague, retroactive sort of way.
One by one the characters leave, and before they shut out the lights on this era we have this little exchange between Dick Grayson and Donna Troy. And it's clearly Robinson addressing the audience.
"Do you think they'll remember us? ... The people. The world. Think they'll remember this version of the JLA and all that we did?"
"Who can say? We did what we could with what we were given and I'm proud. I'll remember. Other people? Honestly who cares, it's not why I'm in this anyway..."
I think that sums it up, really. There's no bitterness there, only acceptance and gratitude. The man is so gracious it's sickening. But really, it's the best way to approach this sort of thing. Don't carry your resentments forward, just hold onto the positive.
It's been a blast, but all things must end.