Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Global Warming (Yes, it's still happening)

You know, the term "global warming" should not be so confusing to anyone who finished Jr. High School, or Middle School in the U.S.A. or perhaps you might know it as your 8th year of education, when you were around 13 or 14 years of age.

Somewhere around that time, you learned about "closed systems" and how they worked in a vacuum (an environment where there is no atmosphere). You heard phrases like "things flow to the point of least resistance" and "chaotic motion results from heating". Your teacher may have even showed you one of those glass birds that dip their beaks in water and keep doing it over and over and over -- the beak gets wet, the glass in that location gets cooler, the liquid inside flows away from it, then slowly climbs back, again and again.

And yet, confusion is still there.

A cool day comes along and people sarcastically say, "Yeah, global warming. Sure." Just proving how unknowledgeable they have allowed themselves to become.

I heard a story from a close freind of mine recently, where he was riding home in a car near Houston, Texas from a dinner with his brother and his wife. It began to snow. Not a common occurance in Houston, and the wife sarcastically commented, "Yeah, global warming. Sure."
The snow had just proven that the "global warming" scenario was more likely than normal, and yet, she thought the opposite because it was cold instead of warm.

Let me explain. Maybe some of you have forgotten.

Space (or Outer Space, some may still call it) is a vacuum. There is no atmosphere. We have a planet that is surrounded by a crust of earth, water and an atmosphere that is approximetly 10 miles (eg. about 16 kilometers) thick. In this area, there is an abundance of life.

Our world is isolated from other bodies in space. As a result, Earth is a "closed system", existing in a vacuum. Closed systems allow heat and energy to exchange, but matter generally does not -- meteorites are relatively insignificant in our case.

Our local star (eg. the Sun), shines down on us as we orbit it. The Sun's heat, warms our planet at a relatively constant rate. Our atmosphere acts just like a "Greenhouse" where the clearer the atmosphere is, the less heat from the Sun is trapped inside the atmosphere -- more of the Sun's heat simply reflects back into space, if the atmosphere is clear.

If the atmosphere is less clear, more of the Sun's heat is trapped in the atmosphere, warming the atmosphere, earth and water.

When a closed system's temperature is raised (eg. warmed), the system becomes more chaotic and its physics less predictable. A simple demonstration of this would be to heat a pot of water. At first, the water's movement is fairly predictable. It just sits in the pan. As the water heats up, it's state changes and begins to simmer, then boil, turning to steam. The water's movement becomes more "chaotic."

The same thing happens with Earth's atmosphere, earth and water. As we add more carbon pollutants to our atmosphere, more heat from the Sun is trapped and the currents in the Oceans and the weather in the Atmosphere becomes more chaotic, more unpredictable. The weather we have always had will change, it will be different, as a result.

If you notice that the weather where you live has become different from just a few years ago (say ten or twenty years ago), then you are seeing the symptoms of global warming.

Everything about the weather will become more and more unpredictable as this continues. We will see greater snowfalls. We will see lesser snowfalls. We will see record colds and record heats. Where it has always been hot, it will get cooler and hotter. Where it has always been cold, it will get hotter and colder that it has ever been on record.

If you watch The Weather Channel at all, you have seen this happening everywhere in North America. Record temperatures, both hotter and colder have been happening every season. Over time, we will see that there will be a steady increase, but year-by-year, it may be cooler, it may be hotter. This is also part of the chaotic results of the gradual increase in temperature in our Atmosphere, Oceans and Earth.

Is that clear now? Do you get it? I hope so.

There are some possibly unwanted impacts to our world, if we ignore the steady rise in pollutants in our atmosphere, but this article is not about that. I'm just trying to get everyone to understand what "global warming" really is.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Dark Dramas

On my morning drive to drop my son off at Highschool, I listened to an interview with the wonderful actor John Malkovich on National Public Radio. For those of you who might be interested, I will not repeat all of the story “spoliers” contained in the broadcast, but I wanted to mention the motion picture that interviewer, Renee Montagne, talks with Mr. Malkovich about, the movie “Disgrace.”

I will not be seeing this picture. I choose not to support this picture.

After hearing the gist of the picture in the interview, I've already decided that it is filled with emotions that I do not care to experience. Be it from my upbringing watching to many movies as a child, or my continuing vocation in motion pictures, I don't know, but I am effected emotionally by movies more than any other medium. My guard is let down. I give myself fully to a well-told story, and will weep and feel the regret of the characters that I identify with.

Two important items there:

  1. “Well-told story” (in other words, nothing “takes me out of the picture” because of its believability.

  2. “Characters I identify with” – I must believe in the characters decision-making ability. They must feel real and not manipulative.

The picture, “Disgrace” I see as yet another film in a long-suffering, long-continuing series of motion pictures that have been made over the last decade. They are DARK DRAMAS. I identify these stories with a few characteristics:

  1. They start in some depressive state – the main character is suicidal, the main character's child is dead or dying, the main character has committed some heinous act that is not forgivable, the main character is dying of some horrible disease.

  2. The storyline gets worse from there and is never redeemed – in other words, bad things, perhaps expressed fears, come to pass and they just keep coming.

  3. There is no redemption – nothing is learned, no lesson is taught, no light comes to the characters, they are condemed and might as well kill themselves.

Examples of such films have done well in the Academy Awards. The first film that comes to mind was “The Hours” released the year after the 9-11 terrorist attacks. I mention this because I feel that we as filmmakers have forgotten some things. We as a group, have forgotten how to make audiences laugh, without telling them the joke first a la The 40-year Old Virgin – “Oh, don't worry, it's okay to laugh. Everyone else is.” We have forgotten how to tell a great adventure story – Indiana Jone's latest? Please. We have forgotten how to tell a romance that shakes us to our core – Enchanted? Come on.

And the list goes on: Leaving Las Vegas, The Deep End, Crash, Rendition, In the Valley of Elah, The Kingdom, Doubt, Changeling, Revolutionary Road, Infamous, etc. If it wasn't for the Oscar consideration, likely, I would not know these names.

It seems like we are stuck, sending DARK DRAMAS to the Academy each Oscar season to get “Best Picture” consideration because, well, we have nothing else. The only emotions we feel “real” and “pure” about are depressing ones. Perhaps it has to do with where we are with our world. Every day, we question, “Are we doing the right thing?” “Are we worth it?” We are stuck in this great self-reflective merry-go-round, constantly looking in the mirror to see us frowning back at ourselves once again.

These are not emotions that I care to add to my already dramatic life. And IF I wanted to do so, I would do so by reading, where there is at least, a little filter that allows me to either skip ahead, or stop reading, instead of being brow beat into submission in a dark theatre, where my only regret later is that I actually paid for the abuse.

As filmmakers, is that what we want? Is that what we want to look back on the early decades of the 21st Century and say, “This was our Best?” Certainly, we are supplying great fodder for future academics, who will, no doubt, writing endless papers decrying our support of such dramas as high art because of their symbolic relation to the end of Society – certainly we are coming to the last days? Well, of you listen to the rhetoric of fear from the Republicans, you must be certain by now.

Well, as a filmmaker, I don't want it. I consider making someone cry too easy, too benign. I want to really challenge myself to find great adventure stories that are believable, to find great romances that don't pander to the lower common denominator (yes, I know that is the accountants largest target, but I'd rather allow the audience to see just how intelligent they are instead of speaking down to them as so often happens in the movie house now-a-days)... AND to find the great comedies with common with and everyday humor that lies all around us like landmines of mirth.

Like my parents always said, “If it was easy, everyone would do it.” Filmmakers of the World? Challenge yourselves!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Los Angeles is a Desert

Well, not entirely, but it's as bad as I have ever seen it. The United States was the birthing place of computer graphics. The Darpa Net, framebuffer from Utah, graphic rendering from Utah, so many developments it's impossible to list them all. Los Angeles as the place where a group of us geeks finally convinced (over a period of about twelve to fifteen years) Hollywood that we could use our technology to make movies. A former head of ILM once said at SIGGRAPH in a speech he gave about the business, "It was 1991, the year that "Beauty and the Beast" and "Terminator2" came out, and Hollywood finally said,"Ohhh! That's what you meant!"

By 1995, every major studio either had or was starting to hire hundreds of computer graphic artists (that mostly didn't exist, remember in 1991 there were only a few hundred of us world-wide). We were so scarce by 1996 and 1997 (the schools had not caught with or not gotten wind of the demand yet), that there were literally thousands of dollars available to artists just for signing a contract to work somewhere. Yes, for digital artists, that was a "fat" time, as in your wallet could get fat.

But, we as an industry had yet to learn (and we still haven't) the lessons of the Animation Industry (Also, by the way, Los Angeles or the San Fernando Valley was the birthplace of American Animation, until it, too, was deported by first, William Hanna and Joe Barbara's company in the early 1960s). Since the 1960s, there has been an irrefutable belief by Hollywood Producers that in order to get more for your money (or spend less on your films), you just take the work overseas.

On the spreadsheets, and powerpoint presentations, this looks true at first. But having started in production doing computer graphics in the Animation Industry in Los Angeles and having become fast friends with the world's historian of LA production, Tom Sito, in the late 1980s, I became VERY familiar with the failure of Business in America to keep their edge over foreign competitors. I was working at Filmation Studios (at that time, the last Animation Studio in America doing all of their production under one roof) when they were unexpectedly sold by Group W in the Fall of 1987. No, not to a competitor, but to be disassembled, selling all the pieces for as much cash as they could get. This was 18 months after Filmation had finished their run on 'He-Man, Masters of the Universe' and started a new series in the same line, called "BraveStarr." He-Man, the syndicated animation series for after school slots on televsion made over a BILLION dollars in on-air sales, commercial sales and ancillary market sales. It was documented in the LATimes during the Summer of 1987.

But Business through away the goose that laid the golden egg. Hanna-Barbara did the same thing in the 1960s, when the networks were pressuring them to lower the costs of the runaway hits, the prime-time shows of 'The Flintsones', and 'The Jetsons', both take-offs on Jackie Gleason's "The Honeymooners" a fine American show. The exported the painting and camera work to Japan, thereby creating jobs in Japan and laying off hundreds of artists devoted to the company in the San Fernando Valley. The Network got it's profits up. Bill and Joe made even more money, and the artists who created the show got laid off.

Business as usual, you say? So, you really feel that there should be an elite of the very rich in the United States? Because business as usual in the U.S. absolutely builds on this idea.

Think about it. The creatives create it. The businessmen profit from it, and deride the artists for being so stupid as to lose control. It's happening again, right in front of your eyes, with the computer graphics business and the visual effects business. Someday, it will be considered silly to make movies in Hollywood, if business has its way, and so far, nothing is stopping it from doing exactly that.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

"At Risk" Living & California's Disaster Budget

I was listening to the radio on the way back from the Airport this morning. They were talking about how the state budget for fighting fires has reached $108 million only two months into California's fiscal year. I believe the total state budget for fighting fires for the year is somewhere around $160 million. So, with ten months yet to go, we have used up 67 % of the yearly budget for fire disaster.

California already can't afford the way it lives. Past legislation has caused the California of today to teeter on bankruptcy year after fiscal year. The mistakes of the past need to be rectified in order to make the state's budget behave in a more reasonable fashion. Expense often comes with risk, but the risk-takers are not paying for it.

What is the real cause of the disaster expense? Okay, you might say the fires. Yeah. But regardless of the fires, the money has to come from somewhere, right? Currently, the money to fight fires in California is coming from everyone who pays taxes, but is that fair? Afterall, most of the homes in California are not "at risk" of being burned due to mountain-side scrub brush fires or forest fires. Most of us do not live in such areas. Most of the developers have not built in "at risk" areas.

Developers build in such areas for two reasons: one, the view might be scenic (it's near or in a forest on the side of a mountain) -- two, there is no new land to build on anywhere else -- the flatlands have all been developed years ago. So, as a developer, eager to create income from the expansion of populations in and around Los Angeles, San Francisco or San Diego, if I want to build something new to sell to the public, steep hillsides near or in a forest is all I have left.

Permits to build in any area are granted by some state authority, so let's assume the state has said, "You've met all our demands. Go ahead and build in this 'at risk' area without providing the state with any guarantees of monies or other compensation if fires are to come any time in the future."

Then, the homes are built. Suburbs are built. Thousands upon thousands or homes are built in 'at risk' areas. Now, if anything burns, it will be at the cost of the tens of millions of homes that do not occupy these 'at risk' areas.

The homeowners build in the 'at risk' areas. They pay their fire insurance at premium prices (Hey, the Insurance companies know what might happen, even if the state doesn't). The fires come and go, and sometimes, the homeowners in the 'at risk' areas get paid to rebuild their homes by the insurance companies. Of course, built right back in the 'at risk' area again, and with no requirements of fireproofing the home any better that it was during the last fire.

So, LOTS of money is being paid to the insurance companies by the homeowners and possibly even by the developers of the 'at risk' homes in the mountainside communities, but none of the money is going to the state. You remember the State, the group that gets to pay for fighting the fires when they come? Notice I didn't say "if." That's a word that the insurance companies use to make LOTS of sales.

I propose that a more fair system would go like this: If you wish to develop or build in what the State designates as an "at risk" area, then monthly stipends must be paid to the state to fight the fires that will eventually come. You can decrease your stipend, if you maintain the brush cut back from structures to a given distance, but the stipend will be paid to the state to fight the fires if you continue to live in an "at risk" area. After all, it is your choice to live there, no one if forcing you to live there, and with that choice should come an added responsibility.

And this should not be just for those of us who reside in "at risk to Fire" areas, but for any and all "at risk" areas -- at risk to flood, at risk to mud slides, at risk to earthquakes.

Only then would the cost of fighting the disasters be equitable. Otherwise, all of us bear the cost by the risk that a few require. Yeah, putting the cost over all of us makes the cost less for those who are "at risk," but isn't the point of doing that to discourage from developing and living in the "at risk" areas?

Yes, it is.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Comic-Con 2009 is in the rear-view!


Well, another sun has set on the thunderous foot prints that roamed the San Diego Convention Center for five days in July, 2009.

Comic-Con has come and gone. But with great gusto! What recession? Maybe some things have been scaled back, but not at Comic-Con. It seems like it was bigger and better than ever. If you weren't there and needed to be for business, you blew it, man.

I haven't heard what the numbers were, but the show sold-out two months sooner than it ever had, and the by look of things, next year is already looking to beat that mark. I spoke with one of the Staff in charge of CCI (Comic-Con International) and he said that next year is already off to record numbers for exhibitors.

I heard that there were 125,000 attendees. It seemed like ALL of them were there between the panel and other presentations on Saturday. The hallway in front of the Wireheads' Booth was always crowded, in particular when some panel or class would let out from the rooms above and the bodies would flow down the 2 story escalators and on the the floor of the Exhibition Hall. There would be no room at all to roam for the first 10 minutes, then it would lighten up as half of the people made their way towards the movie booths and the big name comic booths.

The opportunities were everywhere for creative-types -- publishers, artists, producers, distributors were all over the place and easy to talk with. In fact, I would say most were expectant -- they wanted to chat about what they and you were doing. I met Terry Moore, the creative talent behind "Strangers in Paradise" and the new comic "Echo" which was just optioned by Lloyd Levin, producer of the "Watchmen". We chatted about story and where Echo might go with its ending. So far, Echo, is issue 14 into a 30-issue run. I couldn't believe that I got to talk story with Terry Moore - somebody pinch me. Sunday afternoon on day 5, while I was standing in the exhibitor registration line to register Wireheads for 2010, I asked the guy in front of me about the paperwork. We introduced ourselves as fellow webcomic authors and discovered I was face-to-face with the writer/artist of the hilarious "Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal's" Zach Weiner! I gave him the Google for Wireheads approach since neither of us had business cards at that moment and hopefully, he'll get to check us out.

Also, I was totally intrigued by the Steam Punk-styled weaponry on exhibit and for sale at the Weta booth, so I asked about them. Turns out, that Weta is FINALLY going to create their own content! It looks absolutely awesome! I chatted with one of the creators, Greg Broadmore, and found out new things. More to come on that at a later date. (Yes, it's a secret).

Next door to Wireheads -- To the West, was the fabulous creator Artist/Writer Randy Reynaldo and his Rob Hanes Action/Adventure comic -- Think a grown-up Johnny Quest working for an international, military Security-for-hire group drawn and presented in a "Terry and the Pirates" style. Yes, really cool stuff. You should check out Rob Hanes. You can see a glimpse of Randy in the Wireheads' booth photo above.

To the East of Wireheads, was Charles, a new neighbor who was publishing some books of fabulous artwork and inking from the 70s, 60s and before. Also, signing in his booth for four days, was none other than Leonard Starr, artist/creator of "Mary Perkins On Stage" and the artist who breathed life back into Lil' Orphan Annie in the 80s. Above and to the left is Leonard and I in a pic next to the Wireheads booth. Leonard's a cool guy, easy to hang with and I hope his back gets all the wonderful care that it needs. Cheers, mate!

Across from us, was 'Pirate Cove', that's the author, Joe D'Angelo, across the way from us. He and I have been neighbors at Comic-Con for two years and last year at Wonder-Con in San Francisco. Great guy and also works in the industry.

I had little time to run around the floor and flitting about from booth-to-booth created as many questions as it revealed information. For example, the blonde in the suit who handed me her Stark Industries business card. Yes, Stark Industries had a booth. Aren't they a made up company that works only in Iron Man stories, or...?

Got to see the new BioShock2 trailer and a little of its gameplay in a walk-through by one of its creators. Looks pretty damn cool. True to BioShock, but with new revealing information on the old story. Good job, guys.

Wireheads did well at the show. We hit our 2008 numbers by Friday and set a new mark for next year over the weekend. Yes, everyone smiled as they read the words "Zombie Bunnies" on our booth, and laughed at the explanation. The Life-Sized Zombie Bunnie, ZB, did his work throughout the show, attracting people from aisles away to find out more about his coolness. Expect to see a LOT more of ZB and his minions in the near future. Stay tuned...

I absolutely LOVED the fans that came by. One woman on the first day asked, "Is this the latest book?" Upon my answer, she grabbed it, opened it, grinned evilly and laughed at her friend. She said in parting, after buying lots of stuff (Bless you!), "No one gets by me at work after I've read Wireheads!" Ooo, I thought, a new slogan! Another had her picture taken with me, bought stuff (Bless you All!) and told me that Wireheads was one of the few comics she bookmarks at the top of her browser. Makes me feel all tingly inside. We is loved. Yeh! Many, many, many more fans came by and laughed and paid respects. This was beyond cool. You guys were great on a scale of awesomeness. Yeah that makes no sense, but it does convey the depth of my feeling.

And to round out the Comic-Con report, nothing would be complete without a smattering of the cosplay-types that came by the booth! Here they are:
Naturally, the Star Wars cosplayers were out in Force! (Ouch, that hurts). They were constantly roaming by. I lost count of how many legonnaires, Padme's, Lukes, Wookies, etc. walked by the booth, but not the Slave Princess Leia's -- I counted seven smoking hot Leias going by. Hopefully, I didn't miss any, that would be such a pity. Here's one representative. Exciting, no? And this year, apparently, there was a 'Steam Punk' side-convention to Comic-Con. I asked these two nice ladies about it because I had seen so many of their ilk among the crowds this year and didn't recall anything in particular, movie or otherwise that warraunted their presence. They told me of the side-convention of punks and that they were a group who revelled in the "Nineteenth Century, Time-Travel, Victorian Adventurers of all types" with movies like 'Steam Boy', 'Time Machine', 'Time After Time' and others influencing their style and predilection.
Naturally, right after they left, a large life-size bunny in full Steam Punk regalia stopped by, looking at my bunnies and wondering aloud about Zombies. Okay, there's a bit of everything there at Comic-Con.
And, to prove that point, here's a few more that stopped by -- Green Lantern and Wonder Woman.
Nuala and Nuada of 'Hellboy 2' fame.
Kiki of Studio Ghibli's 'Kiki's Delivery Service.'
A Marilyn Monroe-type across the hallway, and a 'cheeky' onlooker. This guy had a cool ride-around with this giant Dragon head sculpture on the front of it. When he finally drove by and stopped for the picture, he was so close that I had to back against the back wall of the booth to get it all in. I said."Wow! It's so big!" He exclaimed non-chalantly,"I usually like that when the women say it." Cha! And away he wentA smokin' Julie Newmar-style Catwoman with claws and stuff. She was the best of the many catwoman wandering the hall. Nice.And lastly, a super-heroine yet-to-be-names, but certainly worth a photo. Queen of the Latin District? Mardi Gras Woman? The Cleavage? Ah, I'm sure you guys could do much better.

All-in-all, it was a great Con. I really had fun. Only got grouchy on Saturday night (Yeah, I can be a real grouch sometimes.), but it's in the books now, down the road back to Lala-landand time to follow up with all of those whom I said I would. Enjoy! And see you all at Comic-Con 2010 next year!


Cheers.
- Jimbo

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Comic-Con 2009


Okay, finally leaving for the Con tomorrow morning. Have to get the booth setup and operational by 3pm for Premiere Night. Excited. I think half-the-webomic world is headed for San Diego right now. Been following several tweets from Sohmer (LICD) and Jennie Breeden of Devil's Panties. (I think she's still stuck trying to get a flight out of Atlanta) so far.

Anyway, I have a couple of booth helpers this year, so with any luck, my time at the table will be a bit more limited than in other year's past.

I need to get in touch with "John Boy" and a few other artists I met on Artists Alley a couple of years back and talk to them about pitching comics. Yeah, something new for me, but a Director I like working with and I have a cool story that would rock as a graphic novel.

Anyway, I'm really looking forward to it. Should be great fun!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Comic-Con 2009 Prep

So, I'm prepping for Comic-Con. It's going to be in San Diego, California between Wednesday afternoon, July 22nd, and Sunday evening, July 26th. Wireheads' booth will be in the Small Press Pavillion against the back wall of the hall at table S-13. You can find our listing on the Comic-Con site here.

By "prepping", I mean, I'm spending most of my Summer Days working on marketing and merchandise. The new book "Wireheads: Through A Zombie Bunnies' Closet" is now available at Lulu.com and soon to be on Amazon.com. That was last months' chore. Now, it's onto other merchandise.

I will have new zombie bunny buttons, the new book, new t-shirts as well as a Life-Sized Zombie Bunny at the show! Come by and get your picture taken!

Cheers.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Stars Lining Up for MJ

Now I've heard that the "Stars" are lining up to take over the European Concerts for Michael Jackson. It will be interesting to see if the management company putting all of this on (AEG) goes through with this. I suppose it is in their best interests because they could potentially save a lot of money and possibly recoup a lot of their initial expenses, but you know Show-Biz. Someone will likely mess up and who knows what might happen next. Sure to be a Media-Fest, though.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The King of Pop

By now, the world knows that Michael Jackson has died. It's amazing that such a HUGE endeavor -- 50 concerts sold out months in advance, staging, film, publishing, recording and all of the ancillary businesses -- would bascially be relying on the performance of this one man. I suppose one might assume, "Well, he's done it before.", but that was twelve or more years ago and there's been a lot of water under the bridge since then. I was in Dodger stadium, what was it?, 1983? to see the Victory Tour -- one that Michael, at the height of his fame, did with his brothers. They performed as the Jackson Five again on stage and sang backup to Michael with all of his Thriller hits. It rained almost the entire time, but no one left. And if you weren't standing on your seat the whole concert, you missed it.

Heartbreaking, tragic... But, hopefully, memories of triumph and pushing music, performanc and fashion to its limits. We'll miss you.

Under Construction

As some of you might see today, the site is undergoing some significant changes. Don't worry, everything still works and hopefully, by the end of all of this insertion, embedding, html-ing, the site will be much more communicative than it was when I set it up three years ago. Still have a ways to go, but the good news is, I finally have the time to do what I've wanted to do for the last year. Wish me luck! And let me know (now that you can) what you think of all of this (or if you have any ideas to share) by commenting or twittering me back.

Cheers!

A Second Post for Testing

Okay, I think I just about have this formatted correctly, so I am going to create a little longer post for testing the scrolling in the window.  I'm not sure how to limit the scrolling, because after a while the scroll bar might get way too small to use, so I thought I'd better see if it works at all first.  I would be nice if the posts would simply go to a 2-line intro limit after the most recent post, so that the blog of all sequential posts would be listed short in the window and you'd have to go to blogger to comment or read older posts.  Maybe that is somewhere in the formatting.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

TEST

This post is a test of my new Blogger setup for embedding this stuff into Wire-heads.com. Let's see if I can make this work and be attractive for my page.