Saturday, July 30, 2005

Things to do in SF when you're dead: Zombie Flashmob today

Things to do in SF when you're dead: Zombie Flashmob today

From the Boing Boing site:

"I received a message from the brain eating master today: 'We're trying to create a self perpetuating Zombie Mob in the streets of San Francisco on Saturday (Saturday, July 30th). A seed group of zombies will start at St. Mary's square, and as we march up Market St. we'll attack Willing bystanders, converting them and giving them ingredients to make more zombies.'"

see the linked site for more information, if you happen to be in the San Fransico area.

I challenge anyone to tell me that isn't geeky.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Voltron Zooms To Theaters

Voltron Zooms To Theaters

"Producer Mark Gordon (The Day After Tomorrow) is developing a big-budget feature based on Voltron: Defender of the Universe, a 1980s Japanese animated series about a team of pilots whose individual ships combine to form a giant robot, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

"The film will follow the team as they travel to the planet Arus to learn how to operate Voltron, the last hope against the evil Drule Empire that has subjugated Earth and taken control of the universe, the trade paper reported. The film will be produced by New Line Cinema's Mark Costa and Ford Oelman, who secured the rights from Voltron owner World Events. Pharrell Williams, a partner in the producing duo the Neptunes, will score the film and produce the soundtrack.

"The Voltron series debuted in 1984, about the same time as Hasbro's Transformers toy line, igniting a morphing robot phenomenon. Voltron has generated $750 million in worldwide licensing and nearly $200 million in toys and merchandising since 1984, the trade paper reported. A Transformers film is also in development at DreamWorks."

Uproar grows over GTA sex scenes

Uproar grows over GTA sex scenes

"US politicians have stepped into the storm over secret sex scenes in the best-selling Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas game."

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Jim Aparo, 1932-2005

Jim Aparo also had the distinction of having been the longest running artist to ever work on the character of Batman. He brought a very distinct style and identity to the characters of the Batman Family.

Jim Aparo, 1932-2005

"Jim Aparo, a respected Silver Age artist perhaps best known for his work on the Batman character, has passed away, according to a press release offered to reporters on the family's behalf. In addition to work with the big-name character that made his dramatic style one of the most recognizable of the 1970s and 1980s, Aparo enjoyed significant runs with the Aquaman and Phantom Stranger characters, was the co-creator of the Batman and the Outsiders title, and was the penciler on the infamous 'Death in the Family' storyline. He worked at Charlton before heading to DC in the late 1960s."

James Doohan, 'Star Trek's' Scotty, dead - Jul 20, 2005

James Doohan, 'Star Trek's' Scotty, dead - Jul 20, 2005

"James Doohan, the burly chief engineer of the Starship Enterprise in the original 'Star Trek' TV series and motion pictures who responded to the apocryphal command 'Beam me up, Scotty,' died early Wednesday. He was 85.

"Doohan died at 5:30 a.m. (1330 GMT) at his Redmond, Washington, home with his wife of 28 years, Wende, at his side, Los Angeles agent and longtime friend Steve Stevens said. The cause of death was pneumonia and Alzheimer's disease, he said."

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Creative Commons Humbug

An interesting take on the Creative Commons license.

Creative Commons Humbug

"Will someone explain to me the benefits of a trendy system developed by Professor Lawrence Lessig of Stanford? Dubbed Creative Commons, this system is some sort of secondary copyright license that, as far as I can tell, does absolutely nothing but threaten the already tenuous "fair use" provisos of existing copyright law. This is one of the dumbest initiatives ever put forth by the tech community. I mean seriously dumb. Eye-rolling dumb on the same scale as believing the Emperor is wearing fabulous new clothes.

"If you are unfamiliar with this thing, be sure to go to the Web site and see if you can figure it out. Creative Commons actually seems to be a dangerous system with almost zero benefits to the public, copyright holders, or those of us who would like a return to a shorter-length copyright law.

"I have sent notes to this operation and never received a reply, in case you're wondering. Meanwhile, according to its Web site, the Creative Commons organization has money from the Hewlett Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation. For what?"

Jeff's Gameblog: The Wraeththu Report

Well, Jeff bite the bullet and wrote a review. Enjoy....and hope that the man survived his encounter.

Jeff's Gameblog: The Wraeththu Report

"Colin Chapman started it. It's all his fault.Way back in August 2003 he posted a little item to the RPGnet forums entitled Most Pretentious and Artsy RPG Ever Created?: Wraeththu, starting a thread that exceeded 500 posts. Quickly on the heels of that thread, Wraeththu author Gabriel Strange (posting as gabby2600) ineptly responded with a thread of his own called Wraeththu: Bring on the Clowns. This was also a 500-response monster of a thread. Initially I joined in the guffawing dogpile upon Gabby and his antics, but somewhere along the way I became obsessed with finding out more about the actual game hidden under all the internet gibbering. I started routinely checking up on the official Wraeththu rpg website, stopping by the official messageboards occasionally, sometimes reading the blog of the primary author, and scouring Google for more information. I used the Illinois interlibrary loan system to get a copy of the novels upon which the game is based. (I only made it about 75 pages in before I had to return the book.) Eventually I was so fascinated with the development of the Wraeththu rpg that I started several RPGnet threads of my own: A Wreaththu Thread, Wraeththu: more sample pages (featuring Andy Kitowski's Spulturatorah! rpg), A Brief Wraeththu Update, and Wraeththu RPG on eBay. Once I even edited the Wraeththu entry at Wikipedia to include a missing piece of information.

"Worst of all, I just couldn't stop blogging about this game."

Comic Geeks Now a Fantastic Force

A most interesting article. Click on the link for the whole article.

Comic Geeks Now a Fantastic Force

"Actress Natalie Portman knows something about the dark side — she was Mrs. Darth Vader, after all — and for a moment on Friday she came face to face with it.

"The setting was the International Comic-Con, which began life three decades ago as a gathering where mostly young men rummaged through cardboard boxes for vintage comic books. But as Hollywood increasingly bases its movies on comics and graphic novels, the gathering has turned into a sort of Cannes for geeks: They carry such clout that the likes of Portman and other A-list celebrities make the pilgrimage here each year to work the crowd.

"The fans at this weekend's four-day convention — their number is expected to far exceed the 75,000 at last year's festival — represent a double-edged sword for the movie industry. The true-believer audience is eager to embrace the big-screen adaptations of its heroes but is equally ready to reject them.

"Either way, the fans are poised to spread the word to legions of fellow fans via the Internet.

"On Friday, Portman and producer Joel Silver appeared for a question-and-answer panel before a crowd already skeptical about their new film, 'V for Vendetta,' based on the 1980s Orwellian graphic novel by Alan Moore and David Lloyd. The more than 7,000 savvy "Vendetta" followers were well aware of the recent decision to switch the male lead actor in mid-production (from James Purefoy to Hugo Weaving) and the move by Moore — a towering figure in comics — to publicly disassociate himself from the film.

After waiting two hours to get into Comic-Con's movie preview showroom, they cheered in response to the w"orld premiere of the sleek trailer. But when Portman, Silver and others from the movie met the audience, fan largesse lasted exactly two questions. The third fan to reach the microphone elicited robust applause when he pointedly said: "I wonder why Alan Moore hasn't signed up for this."

But instead of blowing up, the issue was quickly defused by panel members ready to answer it. 'Alan has his own views of things,' said Lloyd, who was also in attendance and praised the film's 'very good script.' And for the moment, at least, 'V for Vendetta,' due for a Nov. 5 release, seemed to be off the hook.

"The makers of 'Vendetta,' whose film touches on such hot-button topics as terrorism and bombings in London, aren't the only ones to face the Comic-Con gantlet. In addition to Portman, the four-day schedule includes Oscar-winner Charlize Theron, on hand to promote another sci-fi film, 'Aeon Flux,' as well as Jack Black, Kate Beckinsale, the Rock and directors Tony Scott, David Cronenberg and John Landis, among others, touting assorted projects that orbit the fan planet.

"Movie studios are so serious about courting these tastemakers that they routinely spend big money on giving them the first-look, specially edited previews of films and special souvenirs (such as the 'V' mask handed out Friday to people who saw the preview). They also pay to deliver the films' stars and props from all points of the globe.

"'You might see studios spend a quarter of a million dollars on Comic-Con now,' says John Hegeman of Lions Gate Entertainment, the film distributor that this year footed the bill for a lavish Friday night masquerade ball and for bringing in the entire cast of the company's upcoming horror film 'The Devil's Rejects.'

"Comic-Con has become a big enough tent to include not only superheroes but also samurai warriors, slasher film villains, gnomes and all manner of other fantastical folk.

"'For us, Comic-Con is everything,' said Hegeman, Lions Gate Entertainment's president of worldwide marketing. 'It's the Holy Grail, as far as reaching the concentrated genre fans that we need to communicate with.'

"That said, the allure of big-budget science fiction and hero movies these days goes well beyond niche audiences. Since 1999, 11 of the 15 most successful films at the U.S. box office have fallen squarely inside the genre turf of Comic-Con superheroes, science fiction and fantasy. Such franchises as 'The Lord of the Rings,' 'Star Wars' and 'Spider-Man' show that a one-time win can be parlayed into seasons of success.

"Comic-book fans were once a deeply frustrated constituency. Hollywood typically mauled their beloved heroes in screen adaptations and injected a camp sensibility that chafed the fans who, above all, hated to be mocked.

"That has changed as films as diverse as 'Men in Black,' 'The Mask,' 'Sin City' and 'Road to Perdition' have found success with deeply faithful renderings of the comic-book pages. With success, though, the long-suffering comics fans are quick to be indignant when they don't like what they see.

"'If they think you are lying to them or that you are letting them down, they will let you have it,' says Avi Arad, president and chief executive of Marvel Studios, which has guided such characters as Spider-Man, Blade and the X-Men to box-office heroics. 'Don't tell them you read the comic book if you didn't; they'll ask you about what happened on Page 11 of Issue No. 6. If they don't like what they see and hear, they spread word on the Internet.'

"Studio publicity and marketing people still refer to the Comic-Con clientele as 'the F&Gs' — it's short for 'freaks and geeks' — but now they do it quietly or with a measure of affection. The studios also monitor the intense fan chatter on the Internet and woo convention crowds as if they were studio company shareholders.

"'It's unbelievable how things have changed…. The fans have the power now,' said Otis Chambliss of Rancho Cucamonga, one of thousands of fans in attendance Friday.

"'It's the advent of the Internet,' film producer Silver said. 'These days, you can have a guy sitting on a couch somewhere writing good or bad things about a movie and it makes a difference. At Comic-Con, you have 6,000 guys in one room.'

"Fans toting laptops have been known to race online to be the first to spread word about the latest sneak peek or juicy tidbit that Hollywood unveils at Comic-Con, in part to gauge the crowd's early reaction.

"'You have to go and you have to show them what you have,' said director Bryan Singer. He has pulled himself away from the tight filming schedule of 'Superman Returns' in Sydney to be in San Diego today with footage from the planned summer 2006 release."

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Grand Lodge Officers Jewels Stolen - Grand Lodge of California

A memo from the Masons, all the seeds that a Gm would need to get a pretty good modern campaign going.

Grand Lodge Officers Jewels Stolen - Grand Lodge of California


"June 24, 2005
"To: All Lodges, All Grand Lodge Officers, All Past Grand Masters and Past
"Grand Officers, All Inspectors
"From: David R. Doan, Grand Master

"Regarding: Theft of Grand Lodge Officers Jewels

"On June 2 the safe in the vault at the Grand Lodge Office was opened, and it was discovered that the briefcase with the Grand Lodge Officers Jewels was missing. The San Francisco Police were called, and an investigation was launched into what appears to be a theft of the jewels. They were locked in the safe by the Grand Tiler on October 14 of last year, and disappeared some time between October 14 and June 2.

"We are doing everything possible to assist the police with their recovery. At this point there is no evidence that anyone with proper access to the safe was involved. The police have suggested that a reward for their return be offered, and this is in the process of being done. Through the police department all the usual venues for the possible disposition of stolen property have been checked, and continue to be monitored.

"The jewels are covered by our insurance policy, and a claim has been filed with the carrier. At this point we do not know the extent of the coverage, because much depends upon how the loss is characterized. The jewels are appraised at $107,000, and we have both current digital pictures of them, and an appraisal, which should help."

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Great Expectations

Great Expectations

"The bookies are telling us that Albus Dumbledore's days are numbered. But how the Dickens will he meet his end? Try your hand at our Alternative Potter project.

"We are publishing the best of the entries as they come in: read them here. Find out what the prizes are here."

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Comics Loses One of Its Major Visionaries: Byron Preiss

Around noon on July 9, 2005, writer-editor-developer-publisher Byron Preiss was involved in a fatal auto accident as he drove to his synagogue in Long Island, New York-and American popular culture lost one of its most productive and visionary champions.

For more than three decades, he spearheaded a multiplicity of mediaforms, from comics and ebooks to electronic games and CD-ROMs, that fused words and images like few other individuals would achieve in the entertainment arts. As an author, he generated dozens of books, from hard science and history volumes to profusely-illustrated children's literature. As a packager, he produced a stream of quality fiction and nonfiction titles for almost every primary publishing house, including HarperCollins, Penguin Putnam, Simon & Schuster, Random House, Rizzoli, Scholastic, and Oxford University Press, in addition to developing projects with numerous institutions, including Microsoft, Forbes/American Heritage, Fox Interactive, Comedy Central, MSNBC, Imax, Scientific American, the Grand Ole Opry, and Yahoo!.

Born in Brooklyn in 1953, he subsequently attended the University of Pennsylvania (graduating magne cum laude) and received his master’s degree from the Stanford Film School. I met him in1969 at a Manhattan convention, a tall, handsome kid with perfect teeth and thick, black hair who radiated enthusiasm like a human atomic reactor. He recounted his publishing dream so convincingly that I agreed to create some art for his first venture, a fan calendar, just to give his budding career a jump start.

Neither of us realized that our connection was the beginning of a friendship that would grow, ferment, agitate, evolve, bluster, and ultimately endure for the next 35 years. He was my best friend and confidant for more than half my lifetime—and his presence had a profound impact on me, professionally and personally.

One of our earliest projects involved an anti-drug comicbook that he conceived for near-illiterate grade school students (he was teaching at a Philadelphia elementary facility at the time). On a zero budget, we produced THE BLOCK, the tale of two inner-city brothers who choose to walk different paths, which was distributed citywide and met with exceptional success with both educators and students (some classes colored the panels, others read it aloud, and one even transformed the story into a rock opera). Preiss promoted it from New York City to Atlanta, achieving solid student acceptance and continual praise from all who saw and used it, right up to the majors at Sesame Street. The comic premiered in the summer of 1970, a year before the much-heralded Spider-Man and Green Lantern-Green Arrow drug mags.

Over the next few years, we spoke often about the future of comics, discussion which became the architectural foundation of his initial 1974 publishing venture, Byron Preiss Visual Publications (and recently ibooks), and a series of books that were the first to use the terms “visual novel” and “graphic novel”). My hardboiled detective thriller RED TIDE was one of his offerings. Preiss was the first to regularly and continuously publish adult, book-length comic-panel novels by the field’s top creators. His recent effort, Joe Kubert’s Nazi concentration camp epic YOSSEL stands as positive tribute to Preiss’ unyielding vision and belief in the form, as does his 2005 Harvey Awards win for Best American Edition of Foreign Material for BLACKSAD 2. Preiss was also a business partner of Komikwerks, LLC.

The company eventually published an extensive range of material, including many authored and co-authored by Preiss, such as:

1973 The Electric Company Joke Book
1973 The Silent “E”’s from Outer Space
1976 One Year Affair
1977 Weird Heroes (several volumes of pulp-related stories illustrated by top comics artists)
1977 Son of Sherlock Holmes
1979 Dragonworld
1979 The Beach Boys
1981 The Art of Leo and Diane Dillon
1981 The Dinosaurs
1982 The First Crazy Word Book
1983 Not in Webster's Dictionary
1984 The Bat Family
1985 The Planets
1987 Paul Revere and the Boston Tea Party
1987 The Universe
1990 First Contact: The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence—with Ben Bova
1991 The Ultimate Dracula
1991 The Ultimate Frankenstein
1991 The Ultimate Werewolf
1992 The Vampire State Building
1993 The Ultimate Zombie, The
1993 The Ultimate Witch
1994 Instant American History
1995 The Ultimate Alien
1996 Best Children's Books in the World, The
1997 The Rhino History of Rock ‘N Roll: the ‘70s with Eric Lefcowitz
1999 Are We Alone in the Cosmos?
2000 The New Dinosaurs
2003 The Ultimate Dragon
2003 The Ultimate Frankenstein
2003 The Little Blue Brontosaurus

Additionally, he edited hundreds of others.

Always on the leading edge of trends, he moved into interactive books, CD-ROMs, virtual comics, and online entertainment, generating a staggering volume of product, including many Marvel-related items. His audiobook The Words of Gandhi snared a Grammy Award in 1985.

Often working under severe licensing, financial, deadline, and distribution constraints, Preiss had an uncanny knack of believing in his product and his collaborative talent. He had a hands-on approach to every stage of production, a staggering juggling feat that blossomed into an operation so large it eventually filled two floors of a mid-Manhattan skyscraper.

Nonetheless, hardly a week went by that we didn’t connect in person or on the phone, often recalling the early days when I’d crash at his apartment for a couple days and we’d strategize our futures at all-night skull sessions at the Silver Star Diner on 3rd Avenue. During the next few decades, we alternated between practical jokes and serious soul searching. And somewhere along the way, we became brothers.

We worked together constantly on a myriad of projects, many of which were highly experimental in nature, not to mention risky—and, in this case, the risk was with his money. But he loved to break new ground, even if it took a few layers of skin off his hide. I still recall his shock when I insisted I’d only work on THE ILLUSTRATED HARLAN ELLISON if the story was printed in 3D (he purchased thousands of glasses and had them bound into the volumes) or the Captain America book cover I wanted produced without any type because, I explained, my painted figure of Cap said it all in every language (the volume had a phenomenal 89% sell-through) or the Wild Cards series title I recommended be run upside down in gloss varnish (it could only be read when angled toward the light, but was a knockout visual surprise).

He backed them all and many others, some of which required him to go toe-to-toe with printers, publishers, and distributors. Preiss took a sensible, cool, controlled approach to his proceedings, but I like to think I taught him a few things about fighting dirty to get the job done. We broke a few rules along the way and perhaps set a couple precedents, too. Unlike many publishers who only talk the talk, Preiss walked the walk.

Although our evenings ultimately migrated to the Friar’s Club, his dedication to the work—to the comics form and its creators—not only remained steadfast, but relentless. He cited me as his mentor for graphic design and narrative technique, and, in similar fashion, passed the torch along to others by discovering new talent and giving them the opportunity to breakout with showcase projects, in addition to supporting his favorite vets with ongoing assignments. He redefined the term loyalty.

His recent line of celebrity-created children’s books includes contributions from Billy Crystal, Jerry Seinfeld, LeAnn Rimes, Stephen Ambrose, Carl Reiner, Jane Goodall, Philip Caputo, Jay Leno, and Stan Lee. Several months ago, I pitched a fantasy series in a revolutionary, new format to him and immediately received the green light. Now, that light has dimmed.

He married and had two beautiful daughters, who became the pride of his life. And somewhere along the way, I became part of the family (I always thought I’d adopted him, which only proves how clever he was at making me believe that certain things were my ideas).

Preiss was a subtle, yet seminal force in contemporary popular culture and specifically in the evolution of narrative illustration. His vision will continue to inspire all those who knew him—and those who found something special in his work.

He is survived by his wife, Sandi, and daughters Karah and Blaire.

-- Jim Steranko

Impact Comics: Classic Marvel Superheroes RPG

Impact Comics: Classic Marvel Superheroes RPG

"It was 1991. Memories of the Red Circle era were still floating around in some comic fans' minds. Some of the more astute fans were still wondering where the Spectrum Comics line went. It was a time when X-Men and Spider-Man got "BRAND NEW TITLES" which sold WAY more than they should have (and is McFarlane's art really THAT good?).

"Mike Gold, along with Brian Augustyn and Paul Kupperberg, were coming up with some plans. Mike Gold, for quite some time, has been a champion of bringing in younger readers to comic books. The big three really haven't paid all that much attention to the idea (Batman Adventures being a notable exception from DC), but in 1991, DC Comics gave it a shot.

"The premise was simple: find some old characters that have some name recognition, and update them. And while not "dumbing them down" make them easily accesible to the 8-12 year-old age group.

"How well it worked can be debated forever (and seeing that Impact folded after two years, the naysayers may have a point), but it brought this reader into comic books, and into the world of cool super-heroes.

"After deciding not to go with the THUNDER Agents (there were legal issues still surrounding the characters at the time), it was decided that the Mighty Crusaders would be good candidates. So, Archie Comics was approached, and the rest is history."