My Day at the Alternative Press Expo

It's like Comicon but no comics about people in tights...

I attended APE this year in San Francisco. APE is a lot like Comicon down in San Diego except that the artists and writers at APE don’t have a deal with a big named publisher and/or they don’t write comics about men who wear capes and women who fight crime in their panties. From walking the floor and browsing tables it appears that comics can be, and are, about just anything! There were comics set in the past, present, and future. There were funny comics, serious comics, comics drawn well and comics drawn poorly. There was even a guy there who was selling every Jack Chick publication?!

The crowded west hall at APE

I hadn’t intended to purchase anything at APE, but once I met up with internet friend, Nich Maragos, who knows a lot more about this stuff than I do, was only too happy to share his knowledge and enthusiasm for the art with me which lead to some purchases. Which by itself isn’t a bad thing seeing as the holidays are coming up and I know a number of people who would appreciate some good graphic novels. I also had the opportunity to meet and talk to several artist/writers: Craig Thompson, Kate BeatonShaenon K. Garrity, Jason Thompson, Shannon Wheeler, Elle Skinner, Scott Campbell and so many more who’s names have slipped my mind or cards I’ve lost.

Craig Thompson signing copies of Habibi
Shannon Wheeler at a discussion talking about his like alternative comics

What else? Oh, I ran into Tim Schafer at the Double Fine booth and he was nice enough to hit me in the chest with his yo-yo, while we were there we also lamented the fact that they couldn’t market anything with a muppet on it due to Sesame Street’s strict licensing agreements. Shannon Wheeler was more than happy to share with those who talked to him original pieces of Too Much Coffee Man panels as well as endless humorous anecdotes about his time in the industry. I especially enjoyed his story about how in the 90’s when every comic was selling with some gimmick (foil or holograms) they wanted to do something but wanted to keep costs way down and so went out with guns and shot a bunch of comics, the larger the caliber of bullet the more damage done to and cost of the comic =P

A panelboard for Too Much Coffee Man the Comic

Finally, and this might be the best part of APE is that when you purchase a comic or book after talking to the author they’re more than happy to personalize it for you!

Craig Thompson's Habibi
Mystery Solving Teen graces the title page of my copy of Kate Beaton's Hark a Vagrant book
Paige Braddock draws Batman into my copy of Martian Confedercy #1

All in all I had wonderful time at the Expo and I’m hoping I can make it to next year’s.

PS – again, I want to thank Nich for letting me taglong at APE and Shivam for hosting us and many other friends afterwards.

The Build a Civilization Kit

Global Village Construction Set in 2 Minutes from Open Source Ecology

As regular readers of DiMortuiSunt (now False(B)logic) -Ed) probably already know I’m a big fan of DIY. I grew up living an average suburban lifestyle: separated from the people, processes, land, and animals that make my life possible. As I’ve grown up I’ve recognized this glaring absence in my life. D and I have been trying, slowly, to become more involved. We belong to a Co-op; we garden and compost; we are learning to make our own food products; we are pickling and canning. I grew up being a consumer and I want to make sure as an adult I am a maker.

I’m not the only person who feels this way. There is an entire movement among my generation of people who are trying to get back to a more sustainable and authentic lifestyle (by authentic I mean one in which the person is making something, working with their hands, and creating tangible items). Some people are taking it farther than others. Everything they are doing, is amazing. Some of them I’m sure will change the world, like the man in the video above.

The idea of a DIY Civilization kit seems ridiculous on its face. The task of knowing how to and being able to create all the things necessary for the comforts of a modern lifestyle are just too complicated for a single person or small group of people to know. Despite that though the Open Source Ecology Project is an attempt to put all the plans, instructions, know-how, etc onto a single DVD that will allow the owner the ability to build and operate advanced technologies to jumpstart an economy and even a civilization.

The 10 Things You Absolutely Need to be a Gaming Snob

This set-up is complicated by the fact that no one can quite agree on who to poo-poo and what exactly deserves to have paeans written to its glory. Video games though just aren’t taken seriously and game journalism is seen of more as a cheer team rather than a bastion of stimulating conversation and critique.

Respect to a media isn’t given until those who profess a love for it, denigrate the majority of it… In an effort to bring more creditability to video gaming I’m offering this list of 10 things you’ll absolutely need to be one of those snobbish elitists you’d see if you ever went to art galleries, indy-music gigs, or read the New Yorker…

It seems in order to be taken seriously by the art industry, and the world at large, you have to poo-poo a lot of things while singing the praises of a small few…  This set-up is complicated by the fact that no one can quite agree on who to poo-poo and what exactly deserves to have paeans written to its glory.  Video games though just aren’t taken seriously and game journalism is seen of more as a cheer team rather than a bastion of stimulating conversation and critique.

Respect to a media isn’t given until those who profess a love for it, denigrate the majority of it…  In an effort to bring more creditability to video gaming I’m offering this list of 10 things you’ll absolutely need to be one of those snobbish elitists you’d see if you ever went to art galleries, indy-music gigs, or read the New Yorker…

braid10.  Braid – Braid is the future of video games, movies, life, everything.  Don’t believe me?  Just asks its creator, Jonathan Blow, who has managed to make his own ego the main selling point of this brainy platformer.  Now, you don’t actually have to beat the game, you don’t even have to play it.  Simply mention Braid, or it’s creator, in any video game discussion as an excellent example of form reflecting content, or comment on the delicate and multi-layered story in a condescending voice and you’re peers will soon be asking you what games they should like and why.

zork

9.  Zork – As a connoisseur, a collector, a critic you know the importance of packaging, how the context of an item contributes or detracts from how that item is perceived and interpreted. Zork is one of the most famous PC games ever made, familiar to even those outside of the hobby.  So you know that Zork was originally sold in small plastic baggies with a 36-page booklet, right? and that is the version that you have.  Why is this important?  Because you own a piece of gaming history before it was commercialized, before the hobby was “sold-out.”  It is important to play Zork so that you see just how far the format has degenerated since its inception…  Here is story-telling!  Games today eschew story in exchange for fancy graphics and complex sound tracks, all wrapped around 12 year-old male power/revenge fantasies.  You also need to play Zork, in order to know what a grue is, in case your expertise and right to belittle everyone and everything to do with the hobby is questioned.

It's Thinking...
It's Thinking...

8.  Sega Dreamcast – Sega tried so hard too, The Dreamcast was the companies swan song before they got out of the hardware business altogether.  Why do you need one?  Well because as a snob you know that the biggest isn’t always the best, in fact, you’ve based you’re entire value system around hating and vilifying anything that the majority like.  The Dreamcast is the perfect system, not only because it had a surprising number of great games on it, as well as truly bizarre ones that help your connoisseur cred, but it also failed to be commercially successful.  Not because the system had actual technical flaws, It’s parent company had used up any good-will consumers might have had towards them long before, or a myriad of other reasons. It failed solely because the proletariat failed to perceive its glory, but snobs recognized its greatness which is why they still own one and endlessly talk about how much better it was than the PS2.

Carcassonne_lg

7.  Any board game designed by a German – If you follow the broader world of gaming you know that there has been a recent revolution in the boring old world of board games.  Over the last few years European game designers have muscled in on the boring American market bringing to our shores such games as Carcassone, Puerto Rico, and numerous other board games that aren’t Monopoly or Life with a new skin…  Having at least one of these games shows that your love of gaming transcends boundaries and medias.  It also shows that your snobbery does as well,  “If it isn’t designed by someone with an accent in their name it really isn’t worth playing.”

cash6.  Any game that sells on the secondary market for more than $200 – Obviously it has to be complete…  That cardboard box adds anywhere from $25-$100 dollars to the aftermarket price.  Why do you need one of these?  For a number of reasons: you get to brag to everyone just how much your complete MIB copy of Panzar Dragoon Saga is, not that you care about that sort of thing; it shows that you you take care of your collection, that you are not a gamer, anyone can be that, you are a collector: that you have impeccable taste, others might have to scrape together a small fortune to get their hands on a game everyone, belatedly, recognizes as great, you bought it when it first came out, when everyone else was buying garbage like Killer Instinct you picked up a copy of Earthbound.

sexy, sexy, text
sexy, sexy, text

5.  Softporn Adventure – Software erotica, wasn’t always easy to come by…  In fact digital images of naked women weren’t even possible with early computers, and early attempts at digital pornography are more disturbing than titillating.  Softporn Adventure was one of the first digital attempts at adult oriented gaming.  The game lacks any graphics and is tame even by the standards of its time.  Despite all that the game created a huge controversy and was bootlegged and pirated across America’s high school and college campuses.  This rare piece in your collection tells people your love of the art isn’t bound by bourgeoisie attitudes toward sex, feminism, and class. Bonus snob facts:  This game was originally published by On-Line Systems, which would become Sierra On-line, and is the only game the company made that does not include graphics.  Also Roberta Williams (creator of King’s Quest and other adventure games) is naked in a hot tub on the cover.

Akumajou Densetsu4.  Japanese copies of Games released in English  – That’s impressive that you own Casltevania 1,2, and 3 complete MIB.  Did I tell you I have a copy of Akumajō Dracula, Dorakyura Tsū: Noroi no Fūin, and Akumajō Densetsu?  No, well I do.  What’s that you have Final Fantasy 3?  That’s nice, check out my copy of Fainaru Fantajī Shikkusu.  Things are just better when you can’t understand them, also they have  crosses and boobies in the original versions.

3.  An irrational, undying, love for some game designer – It really doesn’t matter who…  Sid Meier, Hideo Kojima, Shigeru Miyamoto, Tomonobu Itagaki, the Gollop Brothers, Brian Reynolds, Hironobu Sakaguch, the list is endless…  As long as you’ve picked one and will defend any and every game, statement, or bowel movement they’ve ever made.  You’re not a fanboy though, so you’re going to have to dress up your slavish commitment up in big words, and technical terms… Talk about moving the media forward, paradigm shifts, innovative controls,  restructuring design elements, advanced responsive AI, groundbreaking story-telling, etc., etc.

2.  A videoed speed-run of your favorite game, tool assisted doesn’t count – As an expert on all things gaming, you must occasionally show others just how amazing you are at games.  Also, you’re better than them at games.  One of the best ways to do this is to go through a game, preferably a hard one, as fast as you can without dying recording the whole time and then upload it to YouTube where the whole world can bask in the glory that is you… The video above, by Toad22484, is a speedrun of Contra, and it clearly shows how much better than you he is at gaming… With your own you’ll also be able to assert your dominance over the unwashed gaming masses…

you wish you owned it
you wish you owned it

1.  An original arcade cabinet or prototype/demo cart – Either one.  Possessing one of these not only shows you’re better than other gamers, disposable income to blow on superfluous collector’s items…  Having one or multiples of these lets people see how you’re doing your part to preserve video game heritage.  It will also make them jealous.

So there you have it, 10 things you’ll need to enter the gamerati elite.  Best of luck I look forward to our hobby becoming as shallow, hollow, and joyless as other forms of mass entertainment are today!


Revisiting Same Sex Marriage

the essential civil right is not the right to be different — because difference, in this context, is the prerequisite assumption of bigotry — but the right to be the same.

With the recent legal activities in Iowa and Vermont, the Same Sex Marriage issue isn’t going away, as some proponents of Prop. 8 hoped it would after the proposition passed.  I stated then that people don’t stop fighting for basic rights regardless of how many times those rights are denied them. 

Now, this issue will be taken up and debated at the Federal level by the Congress.  Not because there is any politician brave enough to address the issue, but they’ll be forced to by the District of Columbia City Council who have proposed to recognize the same sex marriages performed elsewhere.  I’ve been thinking about the arguments against Same Sex Marriage as well and I agree with Peter Sagal, who lumped them into 3 groups:  It is against God’s law, it is against tradition, and it’ll destroy heterosexual monogamous marriages. 

I’ve covered these arguments in the past but thought that I’d do so again, if perhaps you missed it or didn’t understand.  The first one isn’t an argument at all, and is irrelevant.  What if my God told me it was okay?  What if he told me to kill kittens, and build giant obelisks to his glory?  It doesn’t matter. My and your personal religious beliefs aren’t an argument for denying people their rights in a secular nation that doesn’t recognize any religious belief as valid.  That whole ‘wall’ Jefferson talked about. 

Arguing marriages traditional place is also a poor argument, the whole liberal enlightenment movement of which the United States is probably the best product of is based on overcoming narrow-minded traditional beliefs, laws, processes, etc.  Slavery has a long tradition in the world, Misogyny does too, as well as genocide, torture, pedophilia, polygamy, etc.  The list could go on and on, these are all traditions that we’ve overcome and are better off for it!  I won’t mention the fact that what is presented to Americans as traditional marriage is younger than our country, but that can be for another time. 

The final argument that same sex marriage will destroy heterosexual ones is ridiculous on its face.  What is the divorce race in our Nation?  50%  How many more heterosexual marriages are loveless or festering wells of spousal and children abuse?  According to the Center for Health and Gender Equality 22% of women interviewed admit to domestic violence abuse.  This actual incidence of domestic violence is almost always under reported.  In some surveys the number has been as high as 50-70%!    It appears that heterosexual marriage doesn’t need any help being destroyed, heterosexuals are doing a bang up job all on their own.  All of this and I haven’t even begun to question how what two people do in the privacy of their own home effects what you do in the privacy of yours?  You might not like it, but besides not being comfortable with the idea of two men or two women raising children and having sexual intercourse it can’t do anything to your marriage.  What is much more likely to destroy it is money issues or infidelity.  Besides there’s no evidence to support this, the divorce rate in Massachusetts hasn’t spiked since the same sex marriage became legal, for the few weeks that it was legal in California the only statistics to see a spike was the rate of marriage…   They used this argument too when it came to giving Woman the vote, passing Civil Rights legislation, and abolition…  Nothing was destroyed then either…

Finally, those opposing same sex marriage will fail for one reason, the young don’t care.  It might take more years than it should, but it is inevitable.  Look at some exit polling from last year’s election concerning Proposition 8 in California:

           Yes   No

18-29 (20%)  39   61
30-44 (28%)  55   45
45-64 (36%)  54   46
65+   (15%)  61   39

As older voters die off and younger voters replace them and the LGBT movement continues to press for equal rights, laws protecting “marriage” will fall and the LGBT community will be able to enjoy the same rights heterosexuals take for granted.  As Andrew Sullivan stated, the essential civil right is not the right to be different — because difference, in this context, is the prerequisite assumption of bigotry — but the right to be the same.