Category Archives: Uncategorized

Electromagnetic Radiation and the Digital Artist ~ Is the Wacom Cintiq Safe?

From the Drawing Board


Wednesday, March 20th, 2019

Electromagnetic Radiation and the Digital Artist ~ Is the Wacom Cintiq Safe?




I finally got around to digging into this subject with a video. It might be of interest to others who spend many hours seated at great big broadcast antennas, absorbing EMR, (electromagnetic radiation). The now iconic Wacom Cintiq has become famous as the graphic arts tool of choice for our modern age. There are many other brand names now competing in the desk top drawing monitor space, and they all leverage the same basic technology. Are they safe to use for extended periods?

There’s practically zilch about it to be found on-line, (I’ve looked). So.., do it yourself..!

I Solved Comicsgate!

From the Drawing Board


Thursday, March 13th, 2019


Captain Marvel – Big Power, Small Heart.




Okay then! Let’s talk about Captain Marvel..! (No spoilers. Who says I don’t listen?)

It was worth the admission, 6/10 stars and a good afternoon diversion, but like many of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) films, it didn’t particularly move me. There have only been a handful of MCU films which I was really excited about, and this wasn’t one of them.

Stoic, all business, battle hardened.., Brie Larsen has taken a lot of flak during the marketing build-up to this film, one of the criticisms being that her appearance in press materials was emotionally void, however given the character I think she played it about right. Captain Marvel IS wooden, not supposed to have any emotion, so of course playing it flat made sense. Mind you.., if she were a great actress, we could have perhaps been treated to the portrayal of the cast-iron, brainwashed super-soldier and have been able to empathize with her. That’s why I go to the movies, anyway. Is there a human in there? It was hard to tell. We don’t know how much better the character could have been because we have no other version to compare it to. There is no Christopher Reeve standing beside a Henry Cavill (both cast as Superman) in the case of Captain Marvel.

Perhaps we can compare Captain Marvel to Captain America; also a super-soldier but one who radiates both strength and warmth and genuine affection for the human race. Part of that appeal is in the scripting, but part is what the actor does with it. Sadly, we may never know if another actress could have brought something more to the role of Captain Marvel. The MCU has tied the knot with Brie for the next half dozen films.

In any case, personally, I’d have written her differently. I’d have written her whole story differently.

Her origin story, though they tried, just isn’t core or epic or relatable enough as with the great characters. Great comic book characters are like viral memes; you have to try hundreds of times before you strike gold. You can’t just create them on demand according to some formula, and Captain Marvel’s story simply didn’t have the magic. That’s probably why they’ve had to re-boot her comic like, eight or nine times due to rotten sales. It doesn’t grip and grab the reader by the soul. There’s nothing for a regular person to latch on to; the living with a bright soul inside but not being able to express it, leading to the wishing and the unfairness and the human hurting, “If only I had a chance..!”

The best characters are often underdogs, or they experience moments of soul illumination where they completely switch sides. There’s power in a soul transformation.

Captain Marvel is a functional plot device and that’s all. She was given power without asking for it, without valuing it, without earning it. She was programmed to fight, and her Terminator-like performance fit that scheme. But we only loved the Terminator when the Terminator learned love. Captain Marvel’s lukewarm moment of illumination, (I barely even noticed it frankly, and it came off as tinny), didn’t convince me that she was a real hero.

The key revelatory moment even seemed as though it were politically motivated by hot topic real world events, (in this case, migrant refugees). If this was a deliberate insert, it might explain why it felt so lackluster as a motivational moment for the character; allowing a story to become a vehicle for political activism is often a dangerous dalliance with the 4th wall. -Not just for the writer, who is no longer thinking of the character’s well-being first and foremost, but for the audience. In this case I think Marvel, to their credit kept their politics light enough to avoid full-on collision with viewer opinion.

Whatever the case, it’s never a good idea to betray your audience by tricking them into swallowing a manufactured argument while they are dissociated around the camp fire. Being smacked with a “Gotcha!” will snap people out of a narrative and fill them with distaste and disbelief in further travel in that world. When you dream, you are trusting the narrator with your soul and betrayals are rarely forgiven. This is story-writing 101; a writer must learn the difference between story, satire and propaganda. -It can be done effectively, but you have to subconsciously warn people ahead of time, and further, they have to agree to participate in the thought experiment. Star Trek is an excellent example of testing social theory through lots of small experimental story arcs, and viewers both recognize and happily embrace this aspect of Star Trek. The MCU, however, is not set up in this way, so a critical left turn rings false when previously, political environments served as backdrops for personal heroic journeys, not the other way around.

Anyway.., moving ahead… If Captain Marvel kills Thanos in the next Avengers film, it would be basically a long, drawn out and disappointing example of Deus Ex Machina. Lazy writing.

I’m hoping it won’t go like that. It would be very strange, in fact, quite out of keeping with the past story world vibe. The Marvel movie writers have demonstrated that they know how to make the real victories the result of spiritual struggles, not material contests.

Given the competence of the MCU’s writing for the most part, I think that the much anticipated Avengers, End Game will have enough twists and unexpected new story elements that it won’t come down to such an easy solution as a personal vendetta realized or a simple “I’m stronger!” contest. After all, most of the big characters, from the Hulk to the Racoon and everybody in between, have been personally hurt in such deep ways that any one of them could be justified in delivering the victory. (Except Captain Marvel, that is. Thanos took nothing from her.)

I’m hoping that with such a well crafted villain as Thanos, the solution will be more psychological. I’d like to see him realize, like Doctor Manhattan in Allan Moore’s Watchmen, that he’d made a critical error in his earlier judgment about the value of life and reverses his decision. That would be beautiful!

The whole “Overpopulation” motivation behind killing off half the universe was flat out nonsense, and I feel like even little, meaningless me could have talked him around over coffee. And part of my soul strains to see him recognize the error in his ways. I’d like to see him illuminated. That would be a reward and make for an epic story!


-Mark Oakley

Wolfville, Nova Scotia,
March 13th, 2019


From the Drawing Board


Sunday, Feb 24th 2019

I Solved Comicsgate!



(If you’re not familiar with the term, “Comicsgate”, don’t bother. It’s a waste of any regular person’s attention. Just another side show in the culture war.)

But for those of you who ARE familiar.., (my job description requires that I pay some attention, so that’s why I’m here offering notes), it took a while for me to work out what was actually going on, but I finally did! I’m really proud of this, so check it out:

It’s like any relationship.

Once upon a time, there was a single guy doing his single guy things. In his case, he loved comics and sci-fi/fantasy and D&D. And one day, he met a girl! It was love! He invited her to visit his bachelor apartment and smiled nervously as she took her first pensive steps into his life. After a brief inspection and a few dates.., gosh! She realizes that, yes, this works! She loves him, too! Except.., he’s a fixer-upper, that’s for sure.

On the third or fourth visit she might ask politely, “Why are the brake shoes from your car in the sink, sweetie?”

Undaunted, this lady tiger rolls up her sleeves and starts to gussy up her boyfriend’s bachelor pad into something she can show her Mom and not feel ashamed of. A nice place where you can start a family!

In this story, the guy is Comics, and the girl is, well, All Girls.

Over the last thirty years, comic book conventions have evolved. They started out as collections of dusty card tables and long boxes in hockey rinks and slowly transformed into be-sparkled costume balls! Dazed neck beard guys found themselves stuffed into their good shirts and schooled in proper social etiquette. “Yes, Dear! The Last Jedi was a Very Good Film!”. (-Ha ha ha! No it wasn’t! But far be it from me to contradict a desperate man in front of his lady. But I’ve seen the shifty eyes, the wincing hope that nobody detects the courageous lie. You know who you are. I certainly do, but don’t worry! Your secrets are safe with me.)

Because, by golly, the girls have arrived! And they transformed though force of will and unabashed enthusiasm, the typically all-male events into red carpet co-ed geek parties! They made themselves comfy in their new territory, fluffing nests and, well, being all girly. As also happens, certain among the feminine element immediately set about identifying the social power structures and working out who sits where. -And the more borderline personalities conquered and set up Queen Bee pecking orders to control the flow of that magical substance, popular attention -and who got the sweet jobs, etc. Sociopathy comes in Male and Female, sadly. (And even more sadly, it can’t write. But that’s a whole other issue).

Negatives aside, all of this activity is quite normal and healthy. Seriously! It’s the natural way of things and it’s how humans have worked their magic since forever. When you get married, everything changes and your cool workshop geek stuff has to move out to the garage. Sorry bud! Toddlers and power tools don’t belong in the same room.

The problem in the particular case of Comics is one of the Adjustment Gradient. -Said simply, Comics were always about 95% workshop geek stuff to begin with. The clean up needed to prepare for Mother In Law’s inspection resulted in a near total wrecking ball solution, leaving little behind but the sweeping and the weeping. Literally! Think about it: “Honey, your bat comics cannot stay on the coffee table, and can’t we put the Wookie and his friend somewhere other than the mantle?” -That’s not just a cute argument overheard in anytown suburbia. It’s the entirety of the comics industry, top to bottom. It’s all Bats and Wookies! It all has to go!

And the problem with that is.., shoot, it’s taking the customer base with it. Nobody wants doilies and Mother In Law approved media, (and Mother In Law guilt trips. Have you read some of that stuff?) It’s unrecognizable from what it was before! It’s ALL Last Jedi and no amount of Good Husband nodding can gloss over the fact that it’s like eating spinach from a tin. So that which is left of a comic book industry already on life support includes now plummeting sales and literally hundreds of store closures. When you have to throw out everything pre-marriage from the house of comics, you end up with a hole in the ground, and the fledgling union, bourne of genuine love, is put under tragic strain!

Out in the real world, one expression of this drama has been that many of the particularly masculine elements in the industry, artists and writers, being swept and harassed out of jobs. In part, I think, because geek femininity, much like like geek masculinity, tends to be socially awkward (Sorry, it’s true), and so efforts at relationship navigation were always going to be clumsy and prone to outbursts, -and divorce-level fallout, it would appear.

Hopefully, they can work it all out. Hopefully the kids won’t be traumatized!

Meanwhile..,

Industry grandpas like me, (well, I’m not that old or wise, but these generations came up so fast.., I have to make the effort!), we’re still scratching out comics in our log cabins, just hoping those crazy kids can work it all out. They’re so earnest and bright-eyed after all, and we love them so much!

-Mark Oakley

Wolfville, Nova Scotia,
Feb 24th, 2019


Post Archive

The Wandering Earth – Chinese sci-fi

From the Drawing Board


Saturday, Feb 22nd ~ 2019


New Chinese Sci-Fi “The Wandering Earth”


Whoa!

There’s a Cixin Liu sci-fi movie! And it looks really good!

News meanders slowly West across oceans when it comes to pop culture.

I remember being one of the first and only ‘manga’ fans back in 80’s. Like, me and maybe a dozen other guys in the whole city were even aware that Japan made these crazy-awesome comics and animations. I knew it was going to be a big hit in pop culture eventually, but it sure took its sweet time. Ironically, I don’t pay very much attention these days, having gotten my fill during my teens.

Anyway.., here’s something new and exciting from yet another foreign culture; “The Wandering Earth” is a Chinese sci-fi epic, and it’s getting limited release in the West. Boy, I sure look forward to seeing that! Cixin Liu wrote the, “Three Body Problem” one of the best new sci-fi novels I’ve come across in a long while. Billed as, “China’s Asimov”, Liu is skilled in both the hard sciences and in human insight. That’s a very tough mix to get right.

Liu writes BIG. Like, end of civilization big. No tidy little back yard science adventures for him. He ponders in broad strokes about what it’s like to face planetary alien invasion and catastrophic solar system upsets. One of the things I always find frustrating in sci-fi is that it’s hard to get BIG right. -And Liu doesn’t necessarily get it right either. He just does it from a Chinese perspective.

-Global problem solving using Chinese thinking. Lots of sacrificing the many to save the many. I’d not want to live in China and be on the wrong side of a dam project or cultural revolution, but it sure makes for great sci-fi!



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SJW Shame Army Try to Put The Whammie on… PewDiePie??


From the Drawing Board


Saturday, December 18th ~ 2018


SJW Shame Army Try to Put The Whammie on… PewDiePie??



Oh brother. The SJW Far Left Lunatics tried to put the shame-whammie on.., PewDiePie..??

I can barely believe it! I mean, Sargon of Akkad being de-platformed, I can at least comprehend. After all, he’s a rational, pro-human, opposite-of-nihilist, super-smart guy who reveals the PC ideological war machine as the silly and blood-thirsty thing it is merely by applying reason and dry British wit. Therefore he must be destroyed! Lies and defamation and gossip-factory tell-the-teacher-on-him tactics are all fair game! (All in the name of tolerance and being nice, you understand.).

But PewDiePie??

Really?? He’s got to be one of the most endearing young media personalities on YouTube today. I don’t think there’s a mean bone in his body! He just likes to play games. And 77 million young viewers agree.

Interesting side-bar; there was the Hitler Youth, right? Buncha tragically brain-washed youngsters with arm bands who snapped out sieg heils on demand to please the authority figures in their lives. But after them? The younger brothers and sisters of the generation coming up a few years later? THEY were awesome! They saw the B.S. for what it was, instinctively recognized the propaganda and rebelled. As kids will do! They were a serious thorn in the side of the Nazi regime, and Hitler was enraged enough to have some of their leaders hanged! Wow. Hanging kids for laughing at your evil B.S. -Rebellious youth is a built-in fail safe.

I figured that the whole cell phone, anti-depressant, toxic food thing was designed in part to blunt the edge of this formidable safety feature. But the machinations of the dark side may not have been enough, (Thank God!), because it appears that the kids coming up are smarter and more resilient than the Social Justice generation before them.

As the Far Left continues to unravel, and their bleak, make-believe reality structure crumbles in the face of *actual* reality, the hysterics become shrill indeed.

To be continued, I suppose…

Watch PewDiePie’s amusing response below… Pass the popcorn!



Post Archive

I failed at Math, but Mandelbrot still inspires me



From the Drawing Board


Saturday, Dec 1st 2018


I failed at Math, but Mandelbrot still inspires me



For some reason, I started thinking about math a couple of days ago. I don’t know why exactly; I floundered around in math during my time at school until finally flunking out in grade 10. It wasn’t pretty.

I had no idea what was going on! I couldn’t understand how the other kids could listen to the gobbledegook language the teacher was speaking, (like the muffled wah-wah noises the off-panel teachers in the Peanuts cartoons spoke with), nod with bored expressions, -and write it down and understand it and pass tests and such! It was amazing! I’d just feel stunned and look around sometimes for the hidden camera. No way did any of that make sense..!

But it did, and I failed often and badly.

Still.., there’s always been something about numbers which appeals to me. I find the whole mystery fascinating. And, to be fair, I was very good at geometry. -In a balancing kind of way, I was very good at it when it served to confound the other students. That was my mystery language! -Once I could visualize things, there was no stopping me! However, that’s a rather limited super-power, because once I got beyond 3 dimensions, it became impossible to visualize the results, and I become lost and hopeless once more. I’m evidently a creature meant to function best in 3D.

Anyway…

I decided a couple of days ago to do some thinking about Fractals. -They’re nothing new, and everybody has seen the famous shapes on the covers of science magazines and nerdy posters, but I couldn’t remember how they worked or why, so I decided to figure it all out again. It didn’t take too long, because fractals are really quite simple, so that even a dunderhead like me can work it out.

And the Mandelbrot Set blows my mind!

Check it out:

Z = Z² + C

That’s it!

The idea is that you pick some arbitrary number for Z and for C, run the equation, and when you do, you get a new number out the other end. Then you take that new number and make it equal Z, and then you run the equation again. Rinse and repeat. You get a unique number every single time. Then you use a basic plotting scheme with simple rules. X, Y coordinates. -And you end up putting dots all over the chart. Those dots create fantastically complex shapes that never seem to repeat.

When you run the equation a HALF BILLION times, why, you get a shape which is super complex and deep. The authors of this little math experiment made a video (above) where they zoom into it, and it feels like you’re a parachute jumper falling endlessly into god’s eyeball or something

Anyway, I thought that was cool; how you can find an infinitely deep shape in such a simple equation!


Post Archive

Sneaky, Creepy Old People. WHY??



From the Drawing Board


Wednesday, November 21st, 2018


Sneaky, Creepy Old People. WHY??



Well.., I just watched the latest episode of The Flash. I don’t know why I do this to myself.

But in doing so, a question occurred to me…

Well, check out the episode trailer first to get up to speed…

Okay.

Just once

I’d like to see the sudden appearance of the Too Good To Be True, Wonderful Person (the long lost parent/scientist/captain/leader/king/compatriot/etc.), turn out to NOT be a shape-shifting, corrupted, demonic vampire creepazoid from another galaxy or whatever. To NOT be Too Good To Be True! To actually be true!

Just once!

I mean, we have been hit with it so many times in pop culture story that we inwardly cringe at the very first tell tale signs, at the immediate appearance of the smiling benefactor, the long lost father figure, the Good Captain To The Rescue, -or the marvelous restorative town discovered in the heart of the desert. Whether our heroes are armed with spears, super-suits or phasers, the instant they meet the Seemingly Good New People, we harrowed viewers hunker down and emotionally prepare ourselves for the inevitable betrayal. They’ll be cannibals or witches or something. Every time! We know this story, are intimate with it.

After seeing hundreds (it must be hundreds at this point), of depictions of this particular story twist, it is obvious that we are collectively obsessed with the idea that Newcomers Offering Wisdom and Gifts, are bad.

What’s up with that?

Is it based on some kind of deep truth we need to warn ourselves about on an almost genetically expressed myth level? Like, “Beware Snakes and Wolves” or “Stepmothers try to kill you”, or “Don’t take candy from Strangers”?

I can see the logic in that.

But I also wonder.., is it some kind of dark programming designed to separate us from people who might actually have something good to offer? Closing us off to help, opening us to attack and subversion from genuinely vile forces which pretend to be our peers? “Don’t trust those nasty rescuers, precious, stay here and listen to meeeee. hsss.”

Hmm.

The problem is that I can think of examples in real life of both situations being true.

Maybe discernment, its learning and application, should also be a part of the story universe. Hm. Maybe it already is.

What do you think?

Doctor Who ~ Getting Caught Up

From the Drawing Board


Monday, Nov 12, 2018
Getting caught up on Doctor Who.





Oh boy.

It’s been a long while. Capaldi’s series was too painful to watch, and I tuned out. A waste of an excellent actor!

But now it’s a woman! That seemed like a spectacularly foolish idea. I’ve always felt that if you wanted to have a cool time-hopping female adventure character that you should probably make your own rather than co-opt an existing one. -Unless, of course, your goal was not to make a good story, but to divide and conquer a target population. Either way, I had to see this for myself.

My impression? Jodi Whittiker is more of the same thing; a wasted talent like Capaldi and Smith before her. She does a passable David Tennant impression, which is high praise coming from me. I’ve measured every Doctor since Tennant on a scale of 1 to Tennant. (Get it?) So, I like her. She’s maybe a 6 or 7 that scale and seems earnest enough. I believe she’s the Doctor, though that’s where it ends. I don’t find her particularly special; All the doctors before her were stand out charismatics, engaging, each demanding attention so you could figure out what their deal was. Whittiker doesn’t leave me wondering, and she hasn’t grown on me over the course of several episodes. But whatever. She wasn’t horrible, and that’s something these days when I associate Horror with Doctor Who, (and not in the way a production team should take pride in).

I was surprised to discover that I could even go along with gender fluidity thing within the context of a cool sci-fi character, -if the whole production didn’t reek so highly of psychological manipulation and socio-political agenda. -As if this was always where the story would naturally go and the radical leftist PC movement had nothing to do with it. (What do they say in England? Bollocks!).

Because.., those scripts..! Wow. And I thought Moffat was bad as the previous show runner! (Well, he was bad, but only because he was a creepy over-sexualizing, psychopath-loving incompetent. In my humble opinion.). This new stuff however… Ick! -It’s preachy identity politicking, virtue signaling ‘progressive’ lecturing -where it isn’t Daleks or Cybermen who are the enemy, but Humanity itself! This is the kind of media squeezed into existence once it has passed through the gate-kept, racist, misanthropic anti-reality filter system typical of SJW nihilism.

-Pretending to be noble and good while, really, merely seeking an excuse to inflict shame as a weapon because, bottom line, they like to hurt people, they resent the Creation and see themselves as the perpetual victim of existence itself. The writing room team for this latest BBC offering is either made of up of such individuals (to make a very generous use of the term), or they are unwise or possibly just spineless folks who have been conned into believing/following the propaganda and now serve such masters. The result is the same: Bad stories with sound-bitten, ersatz “insight” in lieu of actual thought or anything approaching fun and adventurous narrative. A diet of over-simple memes on social media have spoiled the public appetite for actual political discourse. (And, it would seem, their ability to digest it.) And instead give us… this.

So.., gross.

If you want to dominate a species, the best way is to make it hate itself, voluntarily drug itself, eat the wrong things, think dissonant thoughts and unravel all its points of strength at every one of its most fundamental roots, even succeeding in turning the very sexes against each other! Who needs Yin and Yang when you can have all Yin all the time, baby! -Stir up class wars and race wars, turning the entire species against itself, (we’re hurting Mother Earth!), so that all the white knights are heralded into action, so that the punishment called down and delivered upon us is actually welcomed in the belief that we are deserving.

Divide and conquer via mind-games. Now THAT’s a fantastic con job!

But hey, what do I know? It’s just a TV show, after all. And what does Story have to do with the psychological health of Humanity?

Hard pass.


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