Wednesday, February 23, 2011

They don't give Pulitzers to comic strips anymore

The last time a comic strip won a Pulitzer Prize for cartooning was 1987.

To be clear, an editorial cartoonist still takes home a Pulitzer every year, but what I'm talking about is the author and/or artist of an actual comic strip, something that resembles multi-panel, episodic story-telling. To date, I'm fairly certain only two such strips have been honored with the award, Doonesbury broke the ground that was later tended by Bloom County.

When I hear people talking about the trials and tribulations of the modern newspapers and how Craigslist and Facebook and Twitter are beating them to death at their own game, I want to pull out the Sunday comic page of my local daily.

Every Sunday readers are greeted with the same three comic strips: Peanuts, Garfield and Dilbert. Let's take them one by one.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Kirk v. Kahn: Someone's losing

From Trek in the Park today. Highly Recommended.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Talk Hard

I should have taken acting classes.

After accepting the job at SM, I did five things to prepare:
1. Listen to Michael Franti's All Rebel Rockers in its entirety. Repeatedly. Mostly screaming out the lyrics to "Hey World" at the top of my lungs every time it came on.
2. Checked out Never Tire of Protesting, by George Seldes from the library. Seldes is widely held as the grandfather of alternative media.
3. Reread the entire run of Transmetropolitan.
4. Rewatch Pump Up The Volume.
5. Reread every issue of Doktor Sleepless that had been published to that point.

Think of it as getting into character.


This one was created with the amazing help of Michelle Andujar whose exhaustive interviews helped us get a real bird's eye view of the issue in Salem.

When the temperature hits 40 degrees at night, Katherine Jhllenkenes starts shaking.

"You have to drink sugar and water or wine," said Jhellenkenes, 48.

She typically gets about an hour of sleep. On a good night, she might get two. She rests a lot during the day to make up for the lack of sleep. The evening before she was interviewed, Jhllenkenes was awoken by a police officer in the park where she'd bedded down for the night.

"The officer got really rude. It was very important to him that I wasn't sitting there," she said.

Last month, NASA shot a rocket at the moon to determine if there was any water present. The cost: $79 million. By some estimates, a quarter of that amount could have housed every homeless person in the state and wrapped them in assistance services paving the way to re-entering a stable life.

Meanwhile, Mattel, the maker of the American Girl line of dolls, released their first "homeless doll," Gwen Thompson. She retails for $95, none of which is donated to homeless charities. After members of the public raised a furor, the corporate parent issued statements from HomeAid America, Inc., a non-profit housing provider, thanking Mattel for their assistance in Project Playhouse. Project Playhouse builds extravagant miniature homes that are auctioned off to the affluent for their kids, the proceeds funding HomeAid.

Back in Salem, Jhellenkenes' most pressing concern is finding a sizable bush, or better yet, a bathroom.

"If you're watered down and you can't walk 5 blocks looking for [a bathroom], you have to think quick," she said.

Another day in the life of Salem homelessness.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Motherf#$king epic

Greetings traveler,

Between reading Charlie Huston’s new novel, Sleepless, the gift of a World of Warcraft pre-paid game card from your sister and recent unemployment you have decided that the time has come to resurrect your long-dormant WOW account. Congratulations! You are about to embark on a series of quests to rival any in-game experience that follows. Have a look at the quest tree:

1. Birds and worms

1a. Reinstall both World of Warcraft and Burning Crusade expansion pack the day before logging back into game. (You put this off after the last computer wipe.)
1b. Redeem your game card.
1c. Download the 3.1GB patch needed to update game.
1d. Bed down for the night.

2. Everything old is new again

2a. Finish installing the rest of the patch. (Windows decided to block update when nearly complete)
2b. Try to log into game, but discover you now need a account.
2c. Try to re-register your games on only to have it tell you your authentication codes have already been claimed. (Duh, by me.)
2d. E-mail support to see if they can load old info into new account.
2e. Discover that there is already a way to merge accounts.
2f. Merge accounts.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


David Sherman is a man of many disguises: Batman, the Joker, Darth Vader, Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, a squad of Stormtrooper variations and a Ghostbuster.

Those are just the ones he can actually wear.

"Until a few years ago, I was over 300 pounds. Always a big guy, but it got to a point where I realized if I didn't make a change I'd probably end up with diabetes like all the other men in the family. Part of building a screen-accurate, movie replica costume is being able to portray the character as seen on screen, and being a very large guy - no way that was going to work. Batman was my motivation to lose the weight," Sherman said.

He shed 110 pounds in 2.5 years by overhauling his eating habits for a proper diet and "surprisingly little" exercise. He suited up as Gotham's guardian for the first time in summer 2008.

Once relegated to the din of comic book, horror and sci-fi conventions booked in whatever hotel was willing to host them, pop culture costuming has seen a popularity surge in recent years and Sherman welcomed it with open arms.

"In the third grade, I had to write a letter to someone famous. I wrote a letter to Michael Keaton asking about the special effects from Beetlejuice. I wanted to know how they made things pop out of his head and spin around," Sherman said.

How NOT to forge a check

Want a demonstration of the limits of of Google and the Internet?

Type "how to forge a check" into a search bar. Try "counterfeiting a check." Try "making a fake check." Go ahead, look at page 10 of the search results, we'll wait.

It's nigh impossible to find a single useful link more recent than the 1990s.

"That's good. That's the way we like it," said Detective Mike Korcek.

That's one way to look at it. Another is that maybe it simply isn't that hard to do. Advances in home computer equipment like scanners and laserjet printers lower the cost of entry to a life of check-forging crime. Given the choice between trying to replicate the paper of U.S. currency (a federal crime in itself) and walking into Office Max to purchase a box of decorative paper that looks vaguely check-like, it's easy to understand why criminals are choosing the latter, but even Korcek was surprised at the size of the ring he and a group of law enforcement officers busted up in the waning hours of 2009.