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Five Dollar Friday

My pal laurier

I’m not quite sure where I first read about Jonathan Schwarz’s Five Dollar Friday project – but it immediately struck a chord with me.

For me, the concept of finding a different on-line project, foundation, cause, or artwork to donate a fiver to every week isn’t really about creating “a new economic model” for such work, but rather is a meditative way for me to be more mindful about not taking the hard work of others, freely given, for granted.

It’s very easy to get a sense of entitlement about all the great material that’s on-line, I’m just as bad as anyone: What do you mean no one has crafted the exact WordPress plugin I need? What do you mean no one has updated this piece of software in a month? What do you mean my favourite webcomic is taking a week off? When the miraculous (a global pool of fantastic work out there to draw from that costs nothing) surrounds you daily, it’s only human you’d begin to trivialize it (perhaps Messieurs J and 2 Dope said it best).

Let’s be frank – most people waste $5 a week on something that matters a lot less to them than the on-line services, products, and people who make a genuine difference in their week. I bought a keychain for $5 yesterday in the shape of a little 8mm camera. It lights up and makes a “filming” sound when you press the trigger and a little led flickers in the lens. It will be broken within the month, I am sure.

This is just a token effort at thinking a little bit about who makes my Internet the great place it is – spending, even a nominal amount keeps me from assuming that “free” equates to “valueless” in an interesting way – and if others can benefit from that – more the better.

72 Hours to TCAF

Toronto Comic Arts Festival Poster 2010

I’ll admit it, I’m torn. The Toronto Comic Arts Festival used to be this cool little bi-annual secret of the city. I was there at the beginning in 2003 and it was like hanging out at the worlds coolest indie comic shop book-signing; Fast forward six years and I’m sitting in a sold-out Harborfront Center listening to Adrian Tomine, Seth, and freaking Yoshihiro Tatsumi. Scott McCloud is sitting in front of me and a veritable horde of girls keep chattering behind me because they are trying to surreptitiously photograph a guy they assumed was Jeph Jacques. I don’t actually remember if it was Jeph Jaques or not… (although it’s pretty funny if they just assumed some random guy was Jeph Jacques) but that’s not the point. My point is that this memory is the diametric opposite of a “tiny well kept secret”. </preamble>

This years line-up is ridiculous, and there’s a truly staggering amount of info available on-line to plan an assault on the ‘fest – given that it’s free – there’s not a single reason to not at least drop by the Toronto Reference Library. The size actually is now well into dangerous territory. In the past I could always wander around the exhibitors and pick up some random mini-comic stuff just for the heck of it. Those on twitter know I’ve been devouring The Comics Journals exhibitor preview and, I kid you not, my first draft “have to pick up” list would literally run seven hundred dollars. May need a re-think on that one. But there is a bounty of riches.

Just in case you need something cool to check out at TCAF – here’s a really quick list of five Toronto-based projects I’m totally stoked about – and you should be too:

sword_of_my_mouth SWORD OF MY MOUTH – I’m 100% jonesing for Jim Munroe and Shannon Gerard’s stand-alone follow up to the post-rapture adventure THEREFORE REPENT! I unfortunately can’t make their launch party tomorrow (so no free seeds for me… but it’s stop number one on Saturday before you all buy up all the copies. Well maybe stop number two. Depends on who’s closest to the front door between them and my other Toronto art-crush… Read more

C-61 II: The Empire Strikes Back

The Twitters lit up this morning when Michael Geist announced that the PMO has sided with a more-restrictive/DMCA-esque/C-61 redux approach to new copyright legislation that will be tabled within six weeks.

I have no doubt this is reliable information – but I’m not going to write about it at any length (or with any vitriol) until something is actually tabled. Arguing about a theoretical is almost as big a waste as summarily ignoring a year long national consultation process (zing!).

I don’t hold out any hope that I’ll be pleasantly surprised by the bill (In fact I mentioned several times in last summer’s posts on the copyright consultation that I suspected the real irony of the process was that everyone involved was going to be disappointed – but it’s hard to argue in detail against an unknown quantity.

Obviously, I stand by my longstanding argument that draconian end-user copyright restrictions will take a huge toll on independent content producers in the new media space. Given that it’s not exactly an industry secret, I’m still shocked at how few creators understand that content locks work two ways – preventing piracy (which they don’t do very well) and locking creators out from accessing platform-specific audiences.

I’ll obviously have more to say once the actual legislation comes down (supposedly June-ish).

No I don’t want to talk about Roger Ebert and Videogames (but then I do anyway)

Step Right Up and Be Validated As Art

Step Right Up and Be Validated As Art

Dear Family and/or Friends and/or Random Acquaintances and/or Twitter Followers and/or Random Strangers:

Please stop asking me my opinion about Roger Ebert’s post about videogames and wether they (have, do, or will ever) constitute “art”. I understand given my occupation, hobbies, educational background, and unabashed love of pedantic petty argument that I would be a likely candidate for strong feelings on this topic – but I tried to avoid for three reasons:

One: I presume folks were looking for fiery counter-argument, and lots of thoughtful writers with much closer ties to gaming have already done that. That last article by Kotaku’s Brian Ashcraft was, perhaps, the most interesting to me personally given Brian’s background.

Two: At it’s core this is a debate about terms, and anyone who has actively engaged in debate as an abstract pursuit will tell you, “term haggling” is the last refuge of someone who doesn’t care about the issue. Read more

Lessons from Pirates? Not Quite.

Nollywood DVD Stall - Flickr photo (cc) by Paul KellerWired (and WELL) co-founder (and all around writer/blogger/lecturer/savant) Kevin Kelly has written an interesting blog “How to Thrive Among Pirates” wherein he extrapolates lessons Western film producers could learn from the piracy-ridden filmmaking cultures of China, Nigeria, and India.

The short summary, for those unfamiliar with China/Nollywood/Bollywood filmmaking, is that there is a thriving low (or no) budget domestic filmmaking culture in these countries which one would presume would be impossible, given the widespread piracy in each.

It’s a very comprehensive, well written read – but I think his conclusions miss the mark, and often gloss over (or conveniently ignore) some of the realities of the situations and solutions he raises.

What do these gray zones have to teach us? I think the emerging pattern is clear. If you are a producer of films in the future you will:

1) Price your copies near the cost of pirated copies. Maybe 99 cents, like iTunes. Even decent pirated copies are not free; there is some cost to maintain integrity, authenticity, or accessibility to the work.

The problem with this approach is that Kevin is thinking in terms of the lessons he’s learned in three countries where physical media is the primary distribution channel of pirated material. In the west, the “cost of a pirated copy” for many movies is zero (or, at best, the pro-rated cost of a low-end computer and a couple of hours of internet time to snag a torrent. This, in most cases, doesn’t even get you a fuzzy multiple-generation bootleg, or shaky handicam movie, but a pristine, DVD-quality film – better than what you’d get at most theatres in Nigeria or India. Read more




I hope everyone is having as lovely an Easter weekend as I’ve been blessed with (although in my case that’s a long weekend where I can do the same work I was doing during the week… but from home… so I don’t have to walk so far to the tea kettle… or wear pants).

In any case just a last minute note that I’m auctioning off one of the very rate Kate Beaton / Nikki Rice Malki Ponys with all proceeds (and then some) going to the (awesome) Operation Sock Monkey. You’ve got until tomorrow afternoon (EST) so get bidding!

Wickahd Smaht

Did I mention that "Zero Day" is great and is available for purchase and download... NOW!

Content has, indeed, been pretty light lately – mostly because what’s been occupying my time for the last couple months doesn’t really lend itself to discussion. If you think comic writers and artists get frustrated when wanting to discuss work with months of lead time, imagine my frustration when there’s a chance some of the seeds currently being planted will pay off next year. Maybe.

However, I am… slowly… starting to warm to the whole Twitter thing, thus cementing my reign as “that guy who alternates between being way ahead of, and way behind, the curve.” It turns out that the excellent Tweetie client was the tipping point, if you’ve found it equally hard to get into this tweet-business. I’m going to look at embedding a twitter widget here as soon as I get a chance – but I will warn in advance my tweeting is pretty asinine (irreverent if you’re charitable).

So – given that I’ve just returned from a Beantown roadtrip, that included (amongst other things) a visit to Ye old PAX East, and that people seem interested in my thoughts on the same I present one of those grand traditions of lazy blog-posts since time immemorial – THE NUMBERED LIST:

Best Five Surprises in Boston Over the Weekend:

The Crusade


I don’t know what else to do people. You can come over and borrow my copy of Never Learn Anything From History, you can flip through her exceptional National Post work (which probably plays a larger part than I’d like to admit in why I subscribe to a daily newspaper where I disagree with a significant portion of the editorials). Heck it’ll cost you nothing (but some well spent time) to just go read the Hark a Vagrant archives.

The important thing is that we immediately start the movement to get Kate Beaton officially appointed Canada’s Cartoonist Laureate.