Category: Questions for the Week

My Apple Tablet, iPad or iSlate Questions For Tomorrow

Posted by – January 26, 2010

Whatever Apple decides to call its tablet computer that will presumably be announced by this time tomorrow, I’m going to be all ears. As someone who writes, reports on, and manages content for a living, I am all for any invention that invigorates media and provides money-oriented systems by which more work and a healthier industry develop for journalism and reading. Apple has some big questions to answer when they get up on stage, though, this is going to be my personal checklist when I read and watch the recaps from those who are there on the ground:

What will it do that my iPhone doesn’t? I love my Kindle app, news apps, and Stanza app for the iPhone. What will a bigger, less portable and presumably more fragile piece of hardware do for me beyond putting it all on a bigger screen that I don’t feel a nagging need for in the first place?

Will its size mean that it is more fragile than an iPhone?

Is it going to cost $1,000? A considerably higher price tag than whatever the next iPhone is likely to come with makes the above questions more pressing.

If it costs close to $1,000, how will that expand and add value to the content market? Most Internet users are already unwilling to pay for online content. If the price turns out to be in the $800-$1,000 range, will consumers be willing to pay more to pay more for content? The only way I can see this working out is if the device comes with free subscriptions to a lot of news sources that would charge otherwise.

I love games, but beyond board games, is the format suited for gameplay? EA and other companies are developing games for the Apple tablet. The iPhone and iPod touch work well because while holding the device with one hand you can use that same thumb and your other hand at the same time. That made that control schemes weren’t much more complicated to figure out than those of the Nintendo DS. The size and shape of this tablet look to be a different story.

What’s the battery life going to be? A full-color screen is going to need a big power source, and I want something that will last for the length of a typical novel-reading session (at least 2-4 hours) without recharging and still leave me a few 5-10 minutes periods of news reading on top of that before returning to an outlet.

What will the comics look like? The full color feature may mean the most for the comics industry. I doubt this question will be answered in the next year, but if paper-and-staples go away, what will this device mean for self-publishers, will it force more attractive payment models for writers and artists at established publishing companies, and how difficult will point of entry be to get through for a couple of guys with a new comic to publish?

Questions for the Week: July 20, 2009

Posted by – July 20, 2009

I rolled in late from the Finger Lakes Wine Festival Sunday (20+ travel hours on the road) and got back to business bright and early this morning. Here’s what’s been on my mind and monitor:

• How many Kindle users out there are comics readers? Archaia announced that they’ll be putting out a new Josh Fialkov graphic novel exclusively for Kindle. I’m all for this and the budget looks promising, I’ll probably be downloading this for my Kindle iPhone app (which has color capabilities). The whole concept of Amazon being able to remotely kill books you’ve paid for still bothers me, but  I have enjoyed using it. It’s great to see publishers testing new markets, and I’ll be anxious to hear what kind of comics readership is lurking out there in front of Kindle screens.

• Is this Complex list of “The 40 Most Violent Comics Ever” one of the best lists ever? Probably. I definitely like it in spirit, and it takes some chances. But I don’t know if I would have put Transmetropolitan on it, let alone so high. Garth Ennis and Frank Miller rightfully own most of the real estate on it, but I’m disappointed to see alt comix and specifically Johnny Ryan left completely off in favor of some ho-hum decisions.

• Is Chris Ware mainstream now? The A.V. Club says yes now, according to this also enjoyable list of “21 artists who changed mainstream comics.” I’m all for citing and celebrating his contributions, but I don’t know what kind of mainstream immitators I’ve seen ripping him off lately. I feel like the paragraph discussing him is a little wishful and arrogant, since including him on the list really should require a justification other than just reinventing with explanation the definition of “mainstream.” But take mainstream out of the title, and I’ll definitely buy this list. It was a good read.

• Is Scribner being irresponsible by reprinting Hemingway’s Moveable Feast according to his grandson’s vision? A.E. Hotchner definitely thinks so and said so much in an NYT op-ed. I’m personally not convinced that the new edition accurately captures Pappa Bear’s original vision, and it’s one of my favorite books of all time, but as long as the other version can still be found, I’m interested to see what changes the grandson made.

2 questions to kick off the week: June 29, 2009

Posted by – June 29, 2009

• Can Longbox really stimulate the secondary market for comics? Rich Johnston’s Twinterview with Longbox founder Rantz Hoseley was one of the more interesting industry-related reads I had last week. Everyone in pamphlet comics has obviously been twitching for a smooth, accessibly platform to sell their content on and magically keep revenue up while losing production costs. The simple supply/demand logic Hoseley uses makes plenty of sense. I think the question is going to be “Will the modern collectors’ culture care?” If there’s been a new generation of kids getting into comics who didn’t live through collecting in the 90s and aren’t accustomed to thinking of their media in object terms like their parents, and will that dampen the effects of the digital transition?

Manga

• What does the term “graphic novel” really mean anymore? Anyone who’s talked to me for more than an hour in the last 6 years has probably had this conversation with me at some point, but I recent happened upon the Webster definition, which says it’s “a fictional story that is presented in comic-strip format and published as a book.” My abbreviated perspective on the subject is as follows: 1) When TIME named Achewood its “Top Graphic Novel” of 2007, it clearly demonstrated that the term is abstractly and often very universally applied (often, I would say, arbitrarily) to anything being communicated through comics. The Webster definition allows for this categorization by using comic-strip in its definition. Does that mean Peanuts is a graphic novel? The Far Side? But would you use the term novel to describe a collection of E.E. Cummings poems or Flannery O’Connor short stories? No! Of course not. I’d love to see the phrase graphic narrative applied more broadly, like prose is used for the written word. 2) Marketing and usage will continue to cement the useless and anemic meaning of graphic novel for the foreseeable future, I think. I love that comics-based storytelling has reached a larger audience over the last decade, but all you have to do is look at the image I personally snapped at a Barnes & Noble last year to see that there are a lot of arbitrary classifications in how longform graphic narratives are marketed.

Questions for the Week: 4/20/2009

Posted by – April 20, 2009

I’ve been linking like mad the last week on Twitter and Facebook, so it seemed high time to do another rundown.

• Why are there still intelligent people out there laughing at brilliant webcomics creators’ self-publishing and distribution models? Over at The Beat, one my regular quadro-daily blog stops, there was a comment thread flowing full force today about Randall Munroe’s decision to self-publish his new volume of xkcd strips. Four years ago, I could at least understand industry-savvy folks with nothing but the dot-com crash as a reference point guffawing out criticisms like, “Year, but how do they make money?” Now, though, they just aren’t paying attention to any number of amazing creators out there from Jon Rosenberg to Dave Kellett, Ryan North and R. Stevens, who have been making these models work as viable livelihoods. It’s the future of indie publishing right now for a variety of comics formats, and the truth is, sometimes it just makes more sense from a dollar perspective to go it alone now.

Can Alan Moore please be called to the stand for this case? Because there is a sky high amount of money I would pay to hear his testimony.

• Are we alone in the universe? Not according to Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell.

• How lucky are Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong that they didn’t have to be eulogized on national TV by Richard Nixon? Nixon was prepared to do it.

• Was Gordon Lightfoot singing about a zombie infestation? Possibly.

8 unanswered ‘Battlestar Galactica’ questions

Posted by – March 20, 2009

***Warning: There are lot of spoilers here that you should not read if you do not want to know what does/doesn’t happen in the final episode of Battlestar Galactica***

This may have been the best unfulfilling ending to a great television series I’ve ever seen. The first hour and a half up through the climactic ending at the Cylon colony was extraordinary. There were surprises. The way they weaved in the opera house visions with the blocking and plot setup was masterful. The last half hour or so of “Daybreak: Part 2,” however, wasted more time continuing flashbacks that didn’t reveal anything important than it spent explaining all the big mysteries the show spent building up and even concentrating on in Season 4.

1) How does Hera save everyone? I loved that they had this episode prepped to be a big climactic straight-into-the-Death-Star style ending — roll the hard six and all that. And that part of the episode, the centurians, the ticking clock, it was all great. I was pumping my fists, yelling at the TV, etc. But all they’ve done since the opera house visions right up to Kara’s plea to Adama to go the colony has been to build up what a huge role Hera would play in saving mankind and Cylonkind. Well, what did she do? Nothing. The only explanation here is basically that she was a plot device for them to believe in. So the story they had invented around her in the prophetic visions was an end to itself to get them to the point where Kara would intiate the emergency jump sequence. Not impressed.

2) Where did the second Kara Thrace come from? This is the big one. The entire final season has beaten us over the head with the mystery of how there were two Karas, that she had a brand new version of her own viper that was unscratched, and she couldn’t remember how it all occurred. Absolutely no closure or even a vague attempt to address that issue in this episode. This is a case where I don’t necessarily mind that it wasn’t settled. But why did they make such a big deal about it if there wasn’t going to be an answer?

3) Who left the original note for Adama? Originally, someone left a note for Adama telling him that there were 12 Cylon models. With all of the models revealed, there still haven’t been any consciously human-friendly characters revealed who were simultaneously aware of the number of Cylon models.

4) Where do the projected visions come from? According to this episode, not only can Cylons and humans both see visions, apparently the visions are conscious and they can project them through time, as demonstrated through the Baltar/Six moment at the end.

5) How are there two Earths with the same continents? They already found one Earth halfway through this season. Now, they have found another one. Both planets were show from space and have the same continent shapes as the real-world non-BSG Earth. The answer to this one is obviously pure coincidence.

6) Why did Brother Cavil shoot himself? In the most bizarre moment of the finale, Cavil just shoved a gun into his face and gave his character an easy out from a situation where he was heavily invested.

7) How is Kara Thrace the Harbinger of Death? She was supposed to bring about the end of humanity. Well, that never happened.

8) Where was the music coming from? This is probably part of the same lingering mystery as the visions. Once again, it was a major plot point and dangling mystery carrot throughout the last season.

I welcome anyone to chime in on any of these who has theories or explanations. The ultimate answer to most of these questions just has to eventually come down to, well, the more open-ended it’s all left, the more fun there is to be had in imagining solutions and and ways these events occurred. Still, why on Earth would these question not only be raised, but called out repeatedly in the opening flashback sequences?

Questions for the Week of 2/2/09

Posted by – February 26, 2009

  • Does anyone know what the units being measured or information being displayed was during Obama’s speech last night on MSNBC? Here’s the picture I snapped of it. It represented reactions from people who voted for McCain in 2008 and people who voted for Obama. As best I can tell it was constantly updating, but since both lines remained approximately flat (and sometimes disappeared both behind one another and altogether), it was impossible to tell if they represented the last 10 seconds, the entirety of the speech, or a by-the-millisecond emotional reaction to the tone of his voice. Whatever it was, it didn’t seem to be much use.
  • Obama speech

  • Ingrid Newkirk, the founder of PETA has composed an astonishing will regarding her body when she’s deceased. It includes, among other things, that her body “or a portion thereof, be used for a human barbecue,” that her “feet be removed and umbrella stands or other ornamentation be made from them,” and that her “eyes be removed, mounted, and delivered to the administrator of the U.S. [E.P.A.].” Who’s going to eat her?
  • Who discovered this lost Beatles recording?