31 March, 2007

It's a Blogroll. Break out the chopsticks.

I woke up early-ish this morning –around 8.30– resolved to go into the studio in the morning to work on the zombie print. Alas, I sat down in front of the computer with a joint to catch up on teh blogginsfear, and it's now 11 in the AM. But before I leave for Pratt, here are a couple of choice links from this morning's foray into RSSes:

• Tobias Buckell writes about the whys and wherefores of the appeal of zombies in his blog. Buckell is one of our authors at Tor, and I just finished reading his first novel, Crystal Rain. It's damn good, go out and read it, if only for the fact that it's SF with a Caribbean feel to it. I can't wait to get my hands on the sequel, Ragamuffin.

Justine Larbalestier has a cool open thread going about what it means to be a 'fan', or a 'geek' (For the record, I consider myself a geek, but not a fan).

• Over on the tin-foil-hat side of things, we've got this gem from governmentdirt.com: The War is Coming to Iran - April 6th at 4 am - US has Warned Financial Interests in the Area and the Media Crews are Deployed.

• Speaking of geekness, and my admission to said state, here's a link to an interesting post by Audra Heaslip of the Galactica Watercooler podcast, about sexist rhetoric –both within Battlestar Galactica, and in the fan community for the show– when referring to Laura Roslyn:
Lately, Laura Roslin’s been getting a lot of flak for her actions as president, even if the GWC polls indicate mostly favorable ratings. But I’ve noticed something new creeping into the fray: sexist rhetoric (or, one might call it, rhetoric that is hostile or condescending to women) aimed at Roslin’s character, whether intentional or not.
Lots of great comments by the GalacticaWatercooler community follow.

• And finally, from 'Sleekness favourite Strange Maps blog, here's a map in which the actual geography is distorted in order to demonstrate information about the world's popultion.

Ok, enough of teh intarrwebz. Must. . . Carve. . . Wood. . . . I'm out!

30 March, 2007

Grand Theft Auto IV: No one will see me in October.

Holy crap. This game looks in-fucking-sane. They've gone back to the Liberty City setting, which is a clone of NYC (you can actually see the Flatiron bldg, where I work, at 00:39 on the clip).
I can forsee three things this fall:

#1- I will be a few hundred dollars poorer, because this is the kind of game that will make me spring for a next gen console (should I go with Sony, and their overpriced Blu Ray-playing quad core PS3, or should I just say 'resistance is futile', and bow to the Borg that is Microsoft by buying an XBox 360? We'll find out soon enough)

#2- No one will see me for a good two weeks after this game drops.

#3- Traffic accident rates in the real NYC will skyrocket, and we'll see lots more pedestrian attacks with baseball bats.

Let the fun begin.

29 March, 2007

Zombie Progress. . . the undead lurches on.

The commie zombie has gone the way of the Dodo, my friends. It just wasn't panning out too well, and after sitting on the sketch for a while, I realized that this zombie is much more roots- he's all about the eating of the brains, and who can blame him, really? I mean, that's what the undead are all about anyway: eating flesh. So I went with my gut –pun intended– and gave my zombie a true rallying cry: "MUST... EAT...BRAINS!!"

I put in a good 12 hours of carving on the block this past weekend, and I've got most of the main figure done. I finally finished the lettering on the sketch to my liking yesterday, and got it tile-printed at work today. If all goes well, I should be done with the carving this weekend, and then it's time for touch-ups with the Dremel. Woo-Hoo, power tools!

Here's the finished sketch, for your viewing pleasure. I'll post more in-progress pix over the weekend.

Maybe he knows something we don't. . .

Either Mark Cuban is batshit crazy, or our society is not paranoid enough. Either way, it makes for good conspiracy slingin'. Ok, put your tin foil hats on: Apparently, Cuban is bankrolling a limited theatrical release of Loose Change, the infamous 9/11 conspiracy documentary that's been making the rounds on the internet for a few years. Loose Change posits that the September 2001 attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center were planned and orchestrated by the US Federal Government, in order to justify military incursions into the Middle East, and Iraq in particular. Why would the federal government do this, you ask? Well, duh. For the oil. I thought we'd gone over this already.

While it's got its detractors, including Popular Mechanics (and mind you, I've not watched any of the countering films, so I'm admittedly biased -what can I say, I'm a sucker for a good conspiracy theory), Loose Change makes some interesting, plausible, and compelling arguments. Considering that either fabricating or taking advantage of a Pearl Harbor-like event was one of the cornerstones of the Project for the New American Century's plan for escalating the Middle East conflict –a plan that has largely been carried out, with disastrous consequences, by George Bush and his neocon cronies, some of who actually helped write the damned plan– the scenario put forth by Loose Change is not all that far fetched.

Just goes to show: you can't trust the government.

Sad Hermit sings 'Hurt'

This has got to be one of the saddest, yet funniest things I've seen in a while. Consider the pedigree of the song: written by Trent Reznor, originally performed by Reznor and NIN, covered by Johnny Cash in his Rick Rubin-produced American sessions. Now Kermit the Frog goes at it, and I have to say, he gives Cash a run for his money in the 'look at how fucked up I've gotten' department. I guess the death of Jim Henson hit ol' Kermie a bit hard. Giving Rolf a blowjob is a bit too much, but if you look closely, you can see that at around 2:30, he's doing rails off the cover of The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins. Beautiful!

26 March, 2007

Wham Bam, Monday Smash-up.

It's been over ten days since I've posted, and frankly, that's too long. My apologies, blogosphere. Life sometimes happens offline. I've been spending a lot of quality time with my zombie in the studio, and I'm happy to report it's coming along swimmingly.

So today, a couple of links to throw your way:

1- Cory Doctorow (Craphound, BoingBoing) has an excellent short article in Locus Magazine about the novel and its place in the online world.

2- Esquire has a short but interesting interview with comics badass Frank Miller (Sin City, 300, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns), in which he talks about how Robert Rodriguez won him over to film, despite his bad experiences with Hollywood, amongst other things.

3- AstroRoach has a great article, A Biocentric and Holographic Universe, which elucidates on the relationship between consciousness and our physical reality, from a quantum physics standpoint. Fascinating stuff. Via Sentient Developments.

4- And finally, just to prove that the people of NYC are not paranoid, here's this little gem from the Guardian UK:
NY police spied on anti-Bush protesters

Undercover New York police officers spent more than a year spying on would-be protesters ahead of the 2004 Republican national convention, monitoring church groups and street theatre troupes which had no intention of breaking the law, it was reported yesterday.

Although the ostensible mission of the Republican National Convention Intelligence squad was to identify the potential for violence at the August 2004 convention, the investigation quickly spiralled into surveillance of environmentalists, anti-war groups, and even three local elected officials.

Stay tuned for more this week, including zombie print updates and the second part of my piracy primer.

15 March, 2007

I Looooove Working at Tor: RDM's BSG v. ST:TOS

OMFG, what have I done. . . I've opened a frakkin' can of worms. I just discovered the first podcast from www.scifismackdown.com, pitting the Enterprise (the original TV series Enterprise -NCC 1701-, mind you. This is Kirk's ship before the movie refit) against the new Battlestar Galactica. No sooner do I mention this to my boss, I get half the art department and some of editorial jumping out of their offices for a mid-hallway geekfest. The consensus around Tor is that Galactica would beat the Enterprise senseless, because although Enterprise has its shields, phasers, and photon torpedoes, Galactica has nukes, a fleet of Vipers, Marine boarding parties via Raptors, a nuke-proof hull, and hell, let's face it: Bill Adama's much more of a badass than Kirk ever was, or could hope to be. Adama will kick Kirk when he's down, and then Laura Roslyn would airlock his sorry, spoken-word-spouting ass. So Galactica for the frakking win, baby.

Once we settled on a winner for the Enterprise Galactica face offs, we moved on to other smackdowns: unicorns v. zombies (zombies FTW!), and Vampire Pirates v. Ninja Wizards (the office was divided on this one, and we ended up splitting the difference).

So what do you think?
Enterprise v. Galactica?
Unicorns v. Zombies?
Vampire Pirates v. Ninja Wizards?

The Zombie Print, in Progress, as Promised.

The zombie printmaking extravaganza continues! After some serious wrestling with the Photoshop sketch (clocking in at a gi-normous 400MB. . . serves me right for wanting to work at 100% on a piece of this scale), I was finally able to output my computer sketch yesterday as tiled prints on 11x17 paper, so I eagerly and somewhat giddily (to my shame) ran over to the studio at Pratt last night after work to transfer the print onto my MDF board (thanks, Julia! Again!). After three hours of cutting, taping, and setting, (three hours! I know, I'm working slow. But in my defense, I had to contend with some idiot undergrad who showed up at the otherwise blissfully empty studio not too long after I arrived, and proceeded to mercilessly chat me up for three hours, while I tried to work. Note to all: people who don't know the value of silence, or who talk just to hear themselves talk, really really really piss me off) I've got everything set up for the transfer sketch tonight.

So here's a shot of the board, with the sketch taped down to it, and some tracing paper over the sketch, along with some of my materials thrown in for a sense of scale. Tonight, I'll loosely trace ("fucking tracer!") the sketch onto the tracing paper, then flip the tracing paper over onto the bare board, and rub it down onto the MDF.

I. am. so. psyched. This is gonna rock. I can't wait to finally get to cutting into the board.

12 March, 2007

TV Show Torrents thru RSS: A Piracy Primer for Purloined Programming, Part 1

A few people have asked me how and why I download TV shows off of BitTorrent so reliably and (seemingly) effortlessly, so I figured I would post about it here on the 'Sleekness for future reference. This first post outlines my reasons for pirating TV Shows, since the 'easy way out' would seem to be simply getting a cable subscription.

I think it's fair to say that there are legal alternatives out there for those that want to enjoy TV programming on-demand, but these solutions are not entirely adequate, for various reasons. Let's look at the usual suspects:

#1- Regular cable hook up: In this day and age, this is an untenable proposition to the educated media consumer. I cannot possibly justify paying upwards of $80 a month on a cable bill, just for the 'privilege' of channel surfing. I watch particular shows based on genuine interest and / or recommendations- I don't need to have 500 channels of crap at my disposal, 24 hours a day, so that I can waste a whole afternoon of my weekend surfing through sub-par content, just because I have nothing better to do. There are other reasons why cable doesn't cut it: some people aren't home when a show airs; some people follow two shows that air at the same time, and inevitably have to choose to watch one over the other; some people hate commercials with a visceral passion (that would be me). And then some people are just subversive, cantankerous, anti-capitalistic assholes (um... me again).

#2- TiVo, and similar PVR (Personal Video Recorder) devices: I don't have $300 to spend on a TiVo box, and the device is dependent on your being subscribed to a cable provider anyway (see #1).

#3- The iTunes Store sells TV shows. But as much as I love Apple, iTunes has some very serious limitations:

First and foremost, the quality of videos bought off iTunes sucks. Big time. Due to bandwidth issues, TV shows from the iTunes Store are encoded at a resolution that is more or less adequate for viewing on an iPod, on your computer, or on a regular standard definition tube television set, but if you watch your shows on a 60-inch, high-definition (HD) plasma display (like I do), this just won't cut it, at all. Granted, quality is bound to go up as high-bandwidth internet connections become more common, but this is still a few years away, and it will be a gradual thing. I want my HD now, dammit.

Secondly, DRM (Digital Rights Management) sucks. If I buy a show for $1.99, I should be able to do what I want with that file, the same way I could with a store-bought DVD: play it on my computer connected to my HD set in the living room, play it on my other computer in my room, play it on my laptop in the back yard, even *gasp* give it to a friend who I want to get hooked on a show- whatever. I bought it, fair and square. Hands off my stash.

Third, iTunes takes its sweet, sweet time in posting a new show after it airs sometimes, even though iTunes says that they post shows on the day after the original air date (for some reason, Battlestar Galactica particularly suffers from this quite a bit). This is not acceptable.

Fourth, while the selection of shows on iTunes is good, and getting better all the time, not everything I want to watch is on there. For example, the second season of Weeds never showed up on the iTMS, even though they have the first season available.

So, in essence, if you buy a show on iTunes, you're paying $2 a pop for a low-quality video file that you can only play under certain conditions, at sub-standard quality, and is only made available whenever iTunes decides it wants to post it. Now, most of these things aren't necessarily Apple's fault, but they are the reality nonetheless.

In the next installment (edit: you can read it here), I'll detail my method for automating TV show downloads using a BitTorrent client, and the steps I take to re-encode and properly tag video content for adding to your iTunes library. Stay tuned!

11 March, 2007

The Army is ordering injured troops to go to Iraq

From Salon.com:
As the military scrambles to pour more soldiers into Iraq, a unit of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Benning, Ga., is deploying troops with serious injuries and other medical problems, including GIs who doctors have said are medically unfit for battle. Some are too injured to wear their body armor, according to medical records.

I knew there was a reason I kept my subscription up. . . That's pretty frakked up, though.

08 March, 2007

What, Iraq? Never Better!

From CNN.com (full story here):
• Nearly 2 million Iraqis have fled violence to other nations
• One U.N. official calls situation a "simmering crisis"
• Syria, Jordan recently tightened borders
• Jordan says it can't sustain refugee flow for long haul

Heckuva job, Georgie. Heckuva job.

32 Sq. Feet of Inky Commie Zombie Goodness

Well, it's that time of the year again, when Dennis McNett, one of my printmaking teachers a Pratt, rents a big ol' steamroller, and we spend a day printing large (really large) woodblock prints out behind Steuben Studios at Pratt. This is the third year in a row he puts this together, and for various and sundry reasons I've never been able to participate. Last year I told myself that this year I would do it, and lo and behold, it's coming together. Swing by Pratt's Brooklyn campus on 11 April if you want to see some bad ass printmaking action. With steamrollers. Steamrollers!

The requirements are simple: the block has to be no smaller than 4 feet by 8 feet, you have to bring a can of ink, and you have to be there all day to help others print their work (there is no way to do this alone- it's very much a collaborative thing).

I started sketching last weekend, and here is a modified crop of the final composition. I finally locked down a piece of MDF board to use (thanks Julia!), and I start carving this weekend. I'll be spending all my free time in the basement of Steuben Studio until I'm done or until April 11, whichever comes first.

I wanted to do something whimsical, with a tongue-in-cheek quality, but dark and sciecne fiction-y, or at the very least supernatural. After sitting on it for a few days, and toying with ideas that ranged from space-pirates, to Cylons (of course), to post-apocalyptic cityscapes, I settled on zombies. When in doubt, look to the undead for inspiration. That's gonna be my motto from now on. As I started sketching, I realized that my zombie had the look and pose of one of those aspirational figures from old communist propaganda posters, so I'm running with that, in terms of the type treatment. Zombies AND politics! We'll see how it all turns out.

I decided I wanted to sketch this out on the computer, using my Wacom tablet. This is the first piece I've ever done that has started life completely in the copmuter (and with no photo reference), from scratch. I'm very pleased with the results so far. Once you get over the hump of getting the feel for how the tablet responds to your strokes, and how they translate into the computer, it's all downhill from there. The advantages of working on a Mac as opposed to a piece of paper should be obvious (the Undo command and the History pallette in Photoshop are my good, good friends).

Once the sketch is finished I'll tile-print the artwork on a laser printer, and transfer it to the board using either vegetable oil, or I might just spray mount the paper onto the board, and carve through it. We'll see what works best. I also want to print on a red sheet, and possibly go at the sheet with a can of yellow spray paint to get the two-color thing going.

I'll post pictures of the work in progress as it ...em... progresses. And I'll definitely post pictures from the steamroller sessions. It's gonna be so. much. fun!

07 March, 2007

Some Mistakes Should Not Be Corrected

From the AP wire, via Yahoo:
An unknown number of new George Washington dollar coins were mistakenly struck without their edge inscriptions, including "In God We Trust," and are fetching around $50 apiece online.

The US mint has been inscribing the phrase "In God We Trust" onto its currency since 1956, when Congress ordered it included as a counterpoint to the 'Atheist Communist Threat' (despite the fact that communism simply denounces all religion, as opposed to taking a hard-core anti-deist stance). As free thinkers, the Founding Fathers of the US would probably be rolling over in their graves if they found out that deist propaganda was being disseminated via the country's currency (and don't get me started on the fucking pledge of allegiance). To that effect, many atheist and anti-religious groups have lobbied and litigated (unsuccessfully, so far) to have this phrase removed from all US currency. Grass roots efforts to 'de-god' money have been around for some time. As an avowed atheist, and a staunch supporter of the separation of church and state, my preferred method is the red sharpie, as shown here.

05 March, 2007

Rooftop art

From our friends at the Wooster Collective:

In 1969, Rudolph de Harak designed and the sculptor William Tarr built, a a full-size model of a WWI Sopwith Camel on top of 77 Water Street, a 26 story building, in New York.

It's sole purpose is to amuse the inhabitants of surrounding buildings and skyscrapers, most notably the former World Trade Center.

And the requisite Google maps link is HERE, so that you can see it for yourself. Make sure to turn on the satellite view, for best results.