Month: January 2013

Today's Barrier to Productivity

I was recording today and the damn power started flickering.

One of those weird little things where the lights go down for a little bit and then come back up, and some stuff goes off and some doesn't. The clock on the oven got reset; the one on the microwave didn't. The Mac Mini I was using stayed up; the external hard drive I was recording to (plugged into a different surge protector) did. Pro Tools hung; fortunately I didn't lose any recording but some of it wasn't stored in the .ptf file and I had to drag-and-drop the WAVs from the Audio Files directory.

So I got started and it happened again. This time I didn't lose anything but it started throwing permission errors. So I restored from an earlier .ptf and then I managed to finish.

Always something new and exciting to impede progress. But ultimately I got two good auditions recorded. Fingers crossed...


My post on Unison remains one of the most popular things on this site. (The FF7 Trilogy remain my most popular posts, the ROM Collection Browser post is far and away the most popular hit on the site this month, and a number of people seem confused, as I was, by Netflix's reorganization of Doctor Who -- but Unison's still way up there.)

Well, I rebuilt my computer a few months ago, and I've opted not to go back to Unison. The main reason is that I don't just have Windows/Linux/OSX machines in the house now -- I've got a phone and a tablet both running Android now, and I'd very much like to be able to sync to them, too.

(Yes, okay, so Android is also Linux; good observation, gold star. It is technically possible to run Unison on Android. It is also, as far as I can discern, as big a pain in the ass as you would expect.)

I've decided to take a crack at ownCloud, and set my overworked G4 Mac Mini up as a server. It was a quick, easy setup, and a lot less fiddly than Unison (though it took a little bit of fucking around on the command line to enable SSL), but it's got its tradeoffs -- oddly, near as I can tell the desktop client can only set directories to sync, not individual files, while the Android client can only set individual files to sync, not entire directories.

And speaking of syncing with the Android app, it took me a day to figure out how to get it to sync in the first damn place. The sync toggle is under the system Settings menu, not, for some reason, anywhere in the app's interface, and it turns out that in order to set a file to sync, you have to upload or download it first, and then tap it in the ownCloud browser, and then there's a "Keep file up to date" checkbox. It's not exactly what you'd call discoverable, and the closest thing I can find to documentation is a damn YouTube video. (Can we talk for a minute about tutorials that are only available as videos? For my money, that trend fucking sucks. I mean, videos are great for some things, like showing you how to take apart a piece of equipment, or shave, or otherwise do something that's easier to watch than read about -- but much of the time, step-by-step instructions with the occasional illustration is a far superior method of walking someone through how to do a thing.)

So, not quite perfect. And there are some other pitfalls -- the filebrowser in the Android app can't seem to access the directory with my World of Goo save to sync it, SNESoid save files use a different extension than desktop SNES9X...plenty of rough edges that aren't actually ownCloud's fault but the fault of developers who didn't consider that users would want to sync save files across multiple systems. (It looks like you might be able to sync a file under a different name on the Android client than on the server; I'll look into that but I'm also thinking of switching from SNESoid to SNES9X EX on my phone and EX+ on my tablet. So far it looks like it's a lot more flexible than SNESoid, and while EX+ is too burly for my phone, EX runs all right once I turn off graphics filters, set scaling to integer-only, and turn on the GPU Sync Hack. Save states aren't compatible between versions, but of course save RAM is. As for World of Goo...maybe I can whip something up with symlinks or something; I'll look into it.)

And it's a pity there's no way to set up an automated wireless sync with my PSP.

CBCtv, 1969

Coulda sworn I'd already posted this one but I can't find it looking through the archives, so here it is. Zappa on Canadian TV, talking about the absurdity of TV.

Crass Commercialism

Recently, there was a post on Gail Simone's Tumblr. A reader said:

I'm all for the new surge in gay/lesbian characters in the DCU. So when I ask this, I don't wanna sound like I'm against it, but is there perhaps too much of it? I just kinda feel like it's being thrown everywhere. Even though now it's totally cool to have that stuff in comics (God knows we've needed it for awhile), it just seems like now that the gates are open, let's throw as much of it out as possible.

Gail responded with a well-deserved "WTF?" (I'm paraphrasing). But I got to thinking about it. I don't know what the fan meant with his "being thrown everywhere" comment, but I do sometimes find the introduction of gay characters to be sensationalistic. And I think it comes down, as so many things do, to the collision between art and commerce.

Standard disclaimer: I'm a straight white male. I'm speaking from a position of privilege and I have the good sense to know I am. When I see something as sensitive or insensitive to a group I'm not a member of, well, I'm quite clearly observing as an outsider with an outsider's perspective. If anyone thinks I'm off-base, well, I acknowledge that's a distinct possibility.

But from where I'm sitting, anything that appears in a press release just feels crass. It feels manipulative. When a company introduces its new gay character in the exact same way it introduces an upcoming storyline where Spider-Man/Batman/Johnny Storm dies and the series starts over at #1, then it feels like it's the same kind of thing -- a cynical marketing exercise that is meant to boost sales for a few months but will ultimately be meaningless in the scheme of things.

A creator can introduce a minority character for all the right reasons, out of a legitimate desire to thoughtfully and tastefully increase the diversity of a universe that desperately needs it -- but when the marketing machine gets ahold of it, that can be hard to tell.

Here's an example. When I saw all the fanfare leading up to Batwoman's debut, here's what it looked like to me: a token character introduced to generate press and free media publicity. Oh, and she's a sexy redheaded lipstick lesbian in spiked heels -- that didn't look to me like a character designed to appeal to the LGBT community, it looked like a character designed to appeal to the very worst stereotypes of the comic book fan community. And she's Renee Montoya's ex? Of course she is! How could there be two lesbians in Gotham City who didn't sleep together at one point or another?

I was delighted to find my initial impressions to be pretty much dead wrong. While I wasn't sold on Batwoman's original arc in 52, by the time she headlined Detective it was clear that Rucka and Williams had crafted a complex, interesting character, who owned her sexuality but didn't exist simply to satisfy some marketing push for More Sexy Lesbians. (Plus, she ditched the heels for much more sensible boots.) In the years that have followed, Detective and Batwoman have been consistently excellent comics, and Kate Kane is one of the best new characters to come out of DC or Marvel in the new century. I was wrong about her and I couldn't be happier.

But that introduction, with all the fanfare and press coverage, didn't make her inclusion feel organic, in those early days. It felt like a marketing stunt.

By contrast, I was four or five issues into Cornell and Neves's Demon Knights before it actually hit me that this was a superhero team that included a disabled character, a Muslim, and a transgendered character -- Cornell and Neves included them without fanfare, without promotion; they never felt like tokens, it was just a case of "Here are these characters, and here's their background."

There's a downside to that, of course. Comics is, after all, a business, and there's an argument to be made that if you don't promote the diverse lineup of your book, you may very well fly under the radar. People looking for a book featuring a disabled, Muslim, or transgendered hero might very well have no idea that Demon Knights even exists -- and that's bad for them because they don't know that such a book is out there, and it's bad for DC, Cornell, Neves, and everybody else who stands to make money from the book, because that's a sale they're missing out on. Marketing a book based on the presence of minorities in its cast may seem crass -- but it does what it's designed to do, which is to sell the book. A sensitive, thought-provoking book with a diverse cast is a great damn thing -- but if nobody reads it and it gets cancelled, then not only does it fail to reach an audience, it also sets a bad precedent -- like, say, both Static Shock and Mr. Terrific being among the first books cancelled in the New 52 has got to have DC thinking twice about books with African-American leads. Which of course misses the point -- those books sold poorly because they were bad, not because people don't want to read comics about black people.

The press can be complicit, too -- last year, when the new Alan Scott was introduced as a gay man, lots of readers accused DC and Didio of sensationalizing it. But that's not really what happened. James Robinson decided to make the new Alan Scott gay as a genuine effort to maintain diversity in the DC Multiverse; Dan Didio, when asked point-blank about new gay characters, teased that there would indeed be a big-name character reintroduced to the New 52 as a gay man. From there, it wasn't DC that sensationalized the story, it was comics news sites.

At any rate, I do think that more diversity is an inherently good thing; I don't always agree with the way the publishers go about it, or the way the press covers it, but I think most creators' and editors' hearts are in the right place. I don't think there's "too much of it" -- I just hate press releases.

Dangerous Territories

Got me a wicked headache all of a sudden. Tempting as it is to post The Torture Never Stops, I am instead going with another interview courtesy of -- I'll even cop to not reading this one all the way through. But it's from Sounds, November 7, 1970, and is a piece called Zappa -- The Great Satirist, by Bob Dawbarn.

A Wizard Did It

As soon as this week's episode of Bones opened with the word "Previously," I knew I was in for something really, really stupid.

I like Bones. It is a workplace comedy disguised as a police procedural; it has a good cast and often features the best gross-out humor on television.

But god damn I hate its sweeps arcs.

I get what they're trying to do with the Pelant arc. He's the nemesis. He's Moriarty. Hell, they even cast a guy who looks like the guy who plays Moriarty on Sherlock.

But -- Sherlock spoiler warning -- at least Moriarty's big "I have a secret code to hack every computer system in the world" plot built up to the resolution that nah, he was just fucking with you guys, there's no such thing, he just bribed a bunch of people.

Now, Sherlock has done some legitimately stupid things with technology -- Irene Adler's acid-equipped cell phone springs immediately to mind -- but it's never approached the sheer inanity of Pelant's first appearance, where he encoded a virus into a skeleton that caused the computer that scanned it to catch on fire. And, to be fair, Bones hasn't reached that level of stupidity a second time either -- though God knows it's not for lack of trying.

The latest featured the "Your bank account is being slowly drained!" trope, which I recently commented on in Insufferable by Mark Waid and Peter Krause. But -- Insufferable spoiler warning -- at least the guy draining the account in Insufferable was actually the guy who was in charge of Galahad's accounts. It is entirely plausible that he had talked Galahad into signing documents that gave him the right to take all his money.

In Bones, that is quite clearly not what happened. And, funny story: banks can't just let other people steal your money, even if they have your password. There's this thing called FDIC, plus various fraud protections -- but hell, let's not let that get in the way of a good story.

Only thing is, all this bullshit really is getting in the way of a good story. The game of cat-and-mouse between Pelant and the Jeffersonian would be enjoyable, if it weren't for the constant distractions of Pelant doing crazy impossible shit because the writers can't be arsed to come up with something evil for him to do that's actually remotely plausible.

If the show's going to make the bad guy a wizard, it should just drop all fucking pretense of being set in the real world where logic and rationality apply. Just have everybody discover that magic actually exists and now they're going to have to deal with it. It wouldn't be any more hokey or less plausible than what they're already doing anyway.

I guess what I'm saying is, I'm really looking forward to the City Watch TV series.

And more Sherlock.

KPFA interview

I didn't catch the date but his reference to the 200 Motels album as upcoming puts it in 1970 or 1971.

The interviewer's name is Robin Baxter and she's in over her head. There are a few different ways Zappa tended to deal with interviewers who didn't seem to know what they were talking about; sometimes he'd be playful, sometimes he'd be testy, but he'd always make fun of them.

This one's got Testy Zappa.

Fair Use

Happy Martin Luther King Day. Here's a video of the I Have a Dream speech, posted by Fight for the Future.

The I Have a Dream speech is copyrighted. If SOPA had passed last year, this site could have been subject to takedown simply for embedding the above video.

I do not begrudge King's right to own the words he spoke. Nor do I begrudge his family's right to inherit them following his tragic death. But I question the right, not to mention the wisdom, of any entity -- individual, governmental, or corporate -- to restrict the dissemination of these words, this speech, this seminal moment in American history.

The I Have a Dream speech is copyright 1963, Estate of Martin Luther King, Jr. Pass it on.