Comical Musings

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Metapost: Charity of the Month

by on May.31, 2010, under COTM, Metapost

So ever since that “Shame, shame” post, I’ve had something of an idea roiling about in my head. As long as people read this blog and maybe get something out of it, maybe I ought to try doing something nice with the attention now and then.

So here’s the idea: the Charity of the Month. Every month, I’ll find a charity with some sort of online presence and write up a little summary of what they do. If you think it’s a good cause, try sending a little money their way. It doesn’t have to be anything huge—even a small donation helps push these organizations toward their goal.

Since this post is showing up on Memorial Day for the American readers, the first charity on the list is the United Service Organizations. The USO provides a variety of services to boost the morale of current and former members of the Armed Forces and their families. This includes entertaining the troops at various military bases (even those on active duty), sending care packages, or running programs like Operation Enduring Care to help wounded soldiers better adjust to their circumstances.

I’m not going to make any comments about specific wars, or war in general*, but I think the USO does a good thing for the men and women in uniform. If you want to support their mission, visit their How to Help page for more information.

* I’d appreciate it if everyone could please stay civil in the comments section, too.

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Review: Ace Hoyle

by on May.24, 2010, under Review

I am not a gambling man.* I know just enough about playing cards that I can make it through a game of Solitaire or Freecell on the computer now and then, and my parents once coached me through a game of cribbage without major injury, but I’m otherwise useless regarding anything at a casino that isn’t served at the buffet.

This makes it a little tricky to review The Adventures of Ace Hoyle, submitted by co-creator Phill Provance. Serving as the eye-catch for casino review site Ace, Adventures tells the story of professional poker champion Ace Hoyle and the intrigue that goes on around the national poker championships. His paramour, Dolly Finegold, runs into troubles of her own. As you can see, the major figures in Ace Hoyle are named with all the subtle characterization of a Dickens novel or a summer blockbuster.

Ace Hoyle takes a lot of cues from old and new melodramas alike: in the less than 30 pages currently available, readers are treated to fisticuffs, more fisticuffs, temper flaring, and an explosion. Also a lot of poker is played, but the lingo is pretty much foreign to me. I get the feeling you’d need to be a poker player to understand what’s going on.

The artist, Thomas Batha, has a very busy art style. The line art is filled to capacity with detail, which might explain the muted color tone. Generally only one emphasized item getting colored while the rest of the comic is in black and white. Characters are just as melodramatic and exaggerated in depiction as they are in writing**; you can tell who the bad guy is pretty quickly (essentially, if you can see their teeth, they’re the bad guy—or at least off-putting).

In the end, if you’re partial to poker or crazy for craps, give Ace Hoyle a look-see. Otherwise, it’s going to be a very confusing walk down the casino aisle.

Comic Rating: An eight of clubs.

* Unless you count trying out new recipes.
** Personally, I think Dolly’s glasses manage to look better in the regular comic than in the promotional art.

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Review: Currhue

by on May.18, 2010, under Review

I find myself somewhat at a loss for this review. As you’ve seen in previous reviews, I generally spend the first paragraph rambling about some odd topic that serves to segue into the review itself. But this week’s comic leaves me at something of a nonplus. So I suppose I’ll have to set aside the expository banter.*

Here, then, is a comic called Currhue, submitted by its creator, who calls himself Kloob. It is a strange comic, a baffling comic. A comic that moves swiftly from awkward flirting to murder and sworn revenge, which is all promptly swept under the rug for a plot involving future alien dinosaurs and the reckless bounty hunters who attack them. And also the bounty hunters are nuclear robots.

Awkward flirting aside, this sounds a lot like my five-year-old nephew telling me what his afternoon at day care was like.

Kloob is capable of some pretty decent art, all things considered, which makes it rather baffling that he depicts human characters as spindly little homunculi. This actually ruins one joke, wherein Albert is supposed to be naked, but he looks no different from when he’s clothed, save for the absence of a line or two.

I honestly can’t yet fathom Currhue. It’s still a bit too sparse to make any overwhelming judgments based on what disjointed snippets of plot I can put together. The quickly-discarded extras feel like side characters from an Adam Sandler movie, and the art is just intentionally ugly enough to put me off. The whole comic feels a bit like a fever dream, and I think I’d rather sweat it out.

Comic Rating: Two enormous hands.

* Now we review this comic like men! And ladies! And ladies who dress like men!

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Shenanigan: The Third Dimension

by on May.11, 2010, under Shenanigan

Justin Pierce raised an interesting thought about the use of 3-D projection in a recent Wonderella comic strip. At the time, I got a bit of a chuckle out of it and went on my lachrymose way. After all, Cracked has been poking fun at 3-D television since at least January, and the Muppets were making 3-D jokes back in the 70s or 80s (I wish I could track down a video of the scene; it involved the Swedish chef working the concession stand at a movie theater and flinging popcorn everywhere).

Well, now the latest review at The Editing Room is making the same commentary. So is one of the comics over at Dean’s Comic Booth. It seems only appropriate, then, that I jump on the bandwagon and offer an opinion of my own.

My big complaint with 3D television and film is that, decades after the 3D concept was introduced, the technology is still in its “wow” phase. Those of you who are my age, do you remember how aggressively Sega marketed its Game Gear as the first handheld video game device with a color screen? Think how few years (or months) it took for a color screen on a handheld to become commonplace, nothing to get excited over. The same thing goes for sending photos and video from a mobile phone, the touch screen on the Nintendo DS, or whatever deep-fried lunacy the fast food corporations are wrapping in waxed paper and flinging out the drive-thru window this week. A certain amount of hype is generated, people voice their respective admiration or distaste, and within months it’s no big deal. And yet more than half a century after people started wearing funky glasses to the movie house*, we’re still expected to sit up and be amazed that such and such a movie has excellent depth** . . . while the producers trot out the same tricks as ever.

Personally, I’ve gotten jaded enough that a character’s arm sticking out of the screen like he or she is going to grab my face no longer impresses me. The same goes for the plethora of projectiles that various shows have flung out of the screen with the intent to make me flinch***. The problem is, that’s about the only way you get people to notice that your movie is in 3-D, because most people won’t care that the background now sits behind the characters. And if no one notices the 3-D effects, then why bother funneling the extra cash into a 3-D movie in the first place? But the mark of any well-done cinematic craft is the fact that people don’t notice it; if it stands out too much, if Jake Sully goes running through a bunch of roots and pebbles or the Cheshire Cat drifts too far out of the screen and makes the viewer flinch, then it breaks the illusion that the rest of the film is trying to weave.

And that, right there, is the problem with 3-D cinema. As it stands, it takes too much extra effort for not enough pay-off. The extra immersion granted by the addition of depth perception is ruined by the producers having to make absolutely certain that we’re aware of the depth perception. If it ever gets past this Catch-22 phase of perpetual novelty and settles into the background with all the other tricks of the trade, it might actually be worthwhile. But until then, I’ll file it with Shaky-Cam under “That’s nice, but will you please STOP?”

* If Wikipedia is to be believed, 3-D films have existed in one form or another since the 1890s. Chew on that for a while.
** At least, depth in the binocular sense. Hollywood remains as vapid as ever, even when it tries to wax pseudo-philosophical.
*** I recall an episode of Family Matters done in 3-D, wherein a cannonball was fired through the fourth wall, followed by Steve Urkel leaning out through the hole to try and grab it back. I remember this mostly because I didn’t have a pair of colored glasses, so I had to make do with tinted clear Lego pieces taped to my regular frames.

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Metapost: Power actually out

by on May.08, 2010, under Metapost

So during the time since I reviewed Power Out, a series of storms through Ohio have left me in a couple of actual blackouts.

This is probably just coincidence, I’m sure. But if I run into a webcomic called Simon Finds a Girlfriend and Several Million Dollars Tax-Free, I think I just might review it. You never know.

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