Sunday, March 28, 2010

Legalization = Devastation?

Outlaw pot growers in California fear legalization -

This Associated Press article quotes at least one Humboldt County resident who believes that the economy of Northern California has grown so dependent on illegal marijuana growing that the initiative being floated for the November California ballot to legalize pot will devastate Northern California's economy.

Sounds odd that the economy would be so dependent on an industry that isn't taxed.
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Dick Giordano, R.I.P.

news from me - ARCHIVES - March 27, 2010

Dick Giordano was a comics artist and editor who played a huge part in the Silver and Bronze ages of comics.  He was the editor at Charlton who masterminded Charlton's superhero line in the late '60's, which indirectly led to the '80's pastiche of those heroes, WATCHMEN.  He did tons of promotional and comics art for DC in the '60's, '70's and '80's, and was editor in chief of the DC line from the mid-80's through the early '90's.  I will remember him best as a superb inker over other artists' pencils, particularly in his collaborations with Neal Adams on Batman and other characters.
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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Musical Product Placement

Folks who have watched network TV in the last few years have likely noticed that the networks have ratcheted up product placement, to the point of embedding commercials for products into the stories of episodic television. The reason: People DVR-ing the shows or watching them on DVD are skipping the commercials.

I'm therefore surprised that no one on network TV has picked up on a product-placement technique that Japanese animation TV producers have used for decades: Instead of using a single theme song, year after year, long-running series (or even ones that last just 26 episodes) switch out opening and closing theme songs and credit sequences after a certain number of episodes.

That enables the show to enlist the funds of a music company. The opening credits sequence essentially serves as a music video for the song, which the company then markets as a single/MP3 download. The TV producers get money, the music company gets sales, the artist gets exposure, and the fans get some variety.

These thoughts come to mind because of a purchase I made this past week:

The ONE PIECE MEMORIAL BEST CD/DVD set collects 16 opening and 16 closing sequences that this ten-year-old anime series has amassed in the course of its run. As of mid-March, it was #1 on the Japanese charts.

Imagine if the SMALLVILLE series, which has been running almost as long, swapped out its opening theme every 25 or so episodes, rather than keeping the Remy Zero "Save Me" theme (which sold some Remy Zero CDs when the series was first released, but likely furnishes few sales now) for the entire series run. That the series has kept the same theme song is particularly odd because for years Warner Music used the series to market its music, with an announcer stating at the end of each episode, "Tonight's episode featured the music of ______, available on Warner Records."

Some might say that keeping the same opening credits theme year after year draws the viewer into the room when they hear the familiar strains. That holds little credence now, when so many shows do away with opening theme songs altogether.

Hollywood missing a chance to make money. Who would have thought it?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Go Ask Alice

Last night we watched Tim Burton/Linda Woolverton's "Alice in Wonderland" movie. I found it pretty and mildly entertaining -- not worth the multi-millions Disney poured into it, but that's a moot point in light of the megabucks it's earning at the box office.

I might carp about injection-molding the unruly source material (both Alice books are more travelogues than stories) into the heroic fantasy, good-vs.-evil cast that is apparently what you need today to get investors to fund fantasy movies. I might complain that the young woman who plays Alice at 19 has only a soap-bubble-film's worth of charisma, and is upstaged every time she shares a scene with Johnny Depp or Helena Bonham Carter (all chewing the computer-generated scenery with relish). I might comment that although Alice is the main character, and the story has a powder-sugar-dusting of feminism, the promotional materials focus on Depp's Mad Hatter (whom I kept expecting to snarl, "Why sso serioussss?")

But what's the point? There have been plenty of "Alice" movies, and there will be plenty in the future. Why begrudge the studio a chance to put out this fancy take, rake in the dough, and perhaps lead some kids to read the source material?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Busted Hump

The Hump -- where I spent a delightful birthday dinner a couple of years ago (despite the severed head of a prawn waving at me while we devoured its body) -- has decided to close its doors, after a sting disclosed that the restaurant was illegally serving endangered whale meat.,0,6584598.story?track=rss&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+latimes%2Fmostviewed+%28L.A.+Times+-+Most+Viewed+Stories%29

Face Palm

I should have known my defection from Palm Inc. products to the Motorola Droid would send Palm into a death spiral.,0,526605.story

Comic-Con Disneyland?

The debate over moving Comic-Con made the front page of the L.A. Times Business Section today. (,0,2448909.story)

According to the story, the Con organizers have contracted to stay in San Diego through 2012; and are committed to staying in Southern California. But apart from that, they don't appear wedded to SD. Both L.A. and Anaheim have made bids for the convention and the $60 million + business it generates for the city in which it's held.

Of the two, Anaheim seems to have the better bid, since its convention center is bigger than either L.A.'s or San Diego's; and it has 4,000 hotel rooms within walking distance of the Center (not as many as San Diego, but far more than L.A. even with the lux hotels being built around the downtown convention center).

I've been going to conventions in Anaheim for 26 years -- ever since the Worldcon in 1984. I would rather like having the con close enough to home that I could drive there and back to my house every day (although it would be a long drive, it's not nearly as long a one as L.A. to S.D.) But the problem with Anaheim is that, apart from Disneyland, there's no there there. There are none of the vibrant restaurants, bars and nightclubs that surround the S.D. convention center, or anything like the L.A. Live complex around the L.A. one. Downtown Disney just isn't the same.

We'll see what happens in a couple of years.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Immortalized at HO-Scale

According to my dad's blog (, a model train builder in Texas has built a reproduction of the old Walla Walla rail line. It includes a sign showing the name of our old family business, B. Barer & Sons -- albeit misspelled.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

iPad, You Pad, We All Pad . . .

Ok, so I've become a slave to trendiness, and I've reserved an iPad for pickup April 3 at my local Apple store. I'm convincing myself that it's less of a commitment than actually buying one online; after all, I can simply not show up before 3 pm that day, and my reserved iPad will be thrown to the general population. And I did reserve the cheapest model, the 16 gig wi-fi-only model, which is all I think I'll need for it.

I do have a rationale. I'm receiving an unexpected honorarium for my work on the law book I update every year; and I figure I should plow the money into something that will help me in future work. I often have to read piles of documents (court papers, appellate records, cases) for work; and I'd like an easy way to read them when I'm away from my computer. I have a netbook, which is handy for creating documents when I'm on the run; but I need a surface to set it on when I'm using it, so it's not so handy for reading documents in, say, court, or when I'm traveling. I have a Nook, which I initially bought in part because it handles pdf files. But while the Nook is delightful for reading books on, it's proven deficient in handling pdfs, for a variety of reasons: non-searchable pdfs are too small to read; searchable pdfs don't flow right; and ocr'ed pdfs show up as junk characters. Plus, they take a long time to load. I'm hoping the iPad will be more useful for that purpose.

But who am I kidding? I'm buying it not only for that, but because Apple has managed to make it look so darned cool for reading magazines, watching videos, light Net surfing, etc. Just hook me and reel me in.

Pre-Spring Steampunk

What fun is a hobby if you can't have a picnic? Here are photos from the delightful steampunk-themed cherry-blossom viewing picnic we went to in Van Nuys yesterday.