Thursday, September 27, 2012

My completely superfluous, unsolicited and uninformed review of the iPhone 5

First, some background:
I have been using my 3GS since it was released in 2009. It was my first smartphone. I have come to realize that there is never going to be another product that will have the same wow factor for me as what I experienced when I first started using the iPhone 3GS. The iPad 2 came close, however, especially when I started using it to sketch and actually produce some really high-quality artwork on it. When the 4S dropped last year, I could have upgraded, but chose not to for a couple reasons: my 3GS was still performing reasonably well, and I wasn't initially all that impressed with the 4S. My wife did upgrade, and I was floored by the camera and Siri. I remember texting her while thinking to myself, "I should just be talking to my phone, but here I am thumb-typing." I had decided, however, to stick it out until the next iPhone, and I stuck to my guns. Over the course of the next year, my 3GS rapidly decreased in functionality. It became slower and slower, and when the iPhone five was announced a few weeks ago, I knew I was going to upgrade.

I stayed up until midnight on launch day, and ordered it that first hour, thus ensuring that I would have my brand spanking new iPhone five the very first day it was available. I can honestly say that I have not been "wowed" like this since I first opened my iPhone 3GS. It is super slim, super light, responsive, clicky, fast, and a delight to use. All my apps work amazingly fast, and my pictures look great, and load times and download speeds are I phenomenal improvement over my old 3GS. By waiting an extra generation before upgrading my phone, I increased the probability that I would be impressed with the iPhone 5. I am so glad that I did.

The iPhone five is also a beautiful little piece of technology. I ordered the white and silver version, and after a week in my pocket with no case it still looks flawless. The screen quality is also flawless. This is my first "retina" display, and I am floored by how pretty and clear everything looks. There is even noticeably less glare and more information on the screen whenever I look at it (excepting those apps that have not made the transition to the 16:9 aspect ratio), and web surfing in landscape is fantastic. The larger screen allows everything to be a little bit bigger, including the keyboard, which is important for a guy like me with large hands and thumbs.

As far as the phone itself is concerned I could not be happier. Call quality has been great. I have not dropped a call all week. The external speakers seem like they've been improved dramatically ; the speaker function on the phone is much louder and clearer. Speaking of speakers, the new ear pods are a dramatic improvement over the rather pathetic Apple earbuds of precious generations. As a phone and as a music player, the iPhone 5 performs far beyond my old 3GS.

iOS 6 is also an improvement, even considering that Apple Maps is not nearly as comprehensive as Google Maps. Facebook integration is great, shared photo streams means I don't have to worry about emailing my wife every time I take a picture of our daughter, and turn-by-turn navigation is a godsend. I do miss all of the detail Google maps has, but the ability to have my directions from one point to another spoken to me is totally worth it. Yelp integration into the maps app is quite useful and helpful.

The only frustrations I have had regarding my new iPhone were that UPS didn't deliver my phone until after 9:30 PM on Friday night, and that, for whatever reason, my SIM card was crappy and needed to be replaced before I could make or receive calls. After 4 hours on the phone with 5 service people at AT&T, someone finally told me to go to the store and get a new SIM. I waited in line for a few minutes, got it, and I've been thrilled ever since.

So far, I have been unaffected by all the various "-gates" the tech blogs keep referencing in their transparent attempts to create some kind of news controversy and get a few more hits. So far, Apple Maps hasn't lead me off any bridges or into a park when I wanted to go to the airport. "Scratchgate?" Please. People trying to keep something they use dozens of times every day in pristine condition strike me as somewhat delusional and petty. I scratched the back of my iPad within days of receiving it. This did not reduce my enjoyment of the device even an iota. Most of the scratches on the plastic back of my 3GS came from the case I used for 2 years, and for all the times I dropped it, it never stopped working. Chips and dings just added character in my opinion. I expect that at some time in the future, I will scratch my iPhone, but that hasn't happened yet, and when it does, I'll probably say the same thing I said when I spilled a box of gooey, hot, Krispy Kreme donuts all over the floor of the first brand new car I ever owned: "Shit. Oh well. One less thing to worry about."

Have I left anything out? Oh yeah! The new connector! "Lightning." I can no longer plug my iPhone into the Bose sound dock my wife surprised me with for Christmas back before AirPlay was so ubiquitous. Well, that's okay, because I still have my old phone and it is still loaded with my music, podcasts, and Pandora. Now I still have access to my phone when I'm listening. The "Lightning" connector works wonderfully. Plugs in every time. No fumbling around in the dark, no squinting to decipher which side is up (I'm talking about you, Kindle... Thank God I only have to plug you in every month or so), and no more pocket lint in my iPhone's charge port!

I am totally satisfied with my iPhone 5 and would recommend it to anyone who is eligible for an upgrade. I'll have to see if it holds up as well as the 3GS did. Much can change in three years. I'm pulling for Microsoft to come from behind and give us a viable third option with what I believe is, in its bones, the best mobile operating system available; I just need to see a stronger ecosystem first. For right now, Apple is the best there is at what they do, and what they do best is very, very pretty.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

DC's New 52: A few thoughts after 9 months

First, I want to make clear that I don't read very many comics.  I read Action Comics, Justice League, Superman, and Wonder Woman.  That's it.  I keep up with them by browsing at my local shops, but I don't actually invest any time or money into any of the Batman books, second-tier characters like Hawkman and Aquaman, or the more fantastic stuff like Swamp Thing or I, Vampire.  I read Action Comics because it's Superman and I trust Grant Morrison to write an awesome Superman comic book.  Morrison gets Superman.  I read Justice League because I trust Geoff Johns and Jim Lee.  These guys know their craft. I read Wonder Woman because I was curious about what Brian Azzarello would do with the character and I have been wonderfully pleased with what I've found.  I've stopped reading Superman because I can't stand the turn the writing has taken since George Perez left.  I promised myself in the late 90s that if Dan Jurgens was involved in a comic book, I was not going to buy it.  As you can see, my personal experience with the New 52 is actually pretty limited. 

You are probably asking, "Why do you think your opinion counts?"  The answer to that is, "I know it doesn't."  My money counts.  And DC got me to spend money on comic books again with the New 52.  Period.  But my dollars are not the ones DC should have been chasing.  The purported goal of "The New 52" was to attract the mythical "new reader" to comic books.  Unfortunately, they have failed to do this.  According to DC's own statistics, something around 97% of the people who are buying DC comics right now are people who already buy comics.  I am not the "new reader."  I was a lapsed reader, and I will probably lapse again if the writing for characters I care about continues to degrade.  But DC knew they had my money.  Many "lapsed" readers like me were just waiting for a good "jumping on" point.  The New 52 offered us that.  What DC has failed to do is get the new money.  DC has failed to attract new readers to the medium.  In retrospect, this should come as no surprise. 

The New 52 isn't really "new" at all.  All the same characters are being written by all the same writers and drawn by all the same artists.  Let's be honest, some of those artists were never all that good (Rob Liefield, Dan Jurgens), some have lost a step (Jim Lee), while others are doing stellar work (Rags Morales, Cliff Chang).  The same can be said for the writers.  Some still can't write (Dan Jurgens), some are doing work consistent with their past excellence (Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison), and others are surprisingly good (George Perez, Brian Azzarello).  There are a few (Judd Winick in particular) who are just plain offensive (but at least he can write decent dialogue, which is more than can be said for Jurgens).  But this is no different now than it was before.  The New 52 isn't doing anything new.  It is the same stuff.  It is simply another reboot.  Nothing special.  Nothing new.

If DC really wanted the "new reader" they should have thrown some money into doing something new.  How about real fantasy comics?  Fantasy is huge right now.  It's booming on television, in books, video games, and comics.  Why didn't DC take some of that talent and put it behind a new fantasy line of comic books?  How about western, crime, political thriller and horror?  What about straight-up galaxy-spanning sci-fi?  Don't license anything.  Create something new. 

Finally, if DC really wanted to snag "the new reader," they should have focused on girls.  Romance, relationship, drama, and even girl-action comics might attract someone new.  Your average tween or young adult female is not going to find anything compelling about super-hero comics which still objectify and over-sexualize women while simultaneously playing into the power-fantasies of adolescent males.  Females are over half of the population.  There are more women graduating college than men.  Women's pay is catching up to men's (though it still has a way to go).  By ignoring females of all ages, DC is ignoring "the new reader." 

The New 52 isn't really new at all.  It's the same artists, the same writers, the same characters, and consequently, the same readers.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Blogger Mobile App

I'm trying out the Blogger app on my iPhone right now. I like being able to manage the posts a little better, but the app isn't switching to landscape orientation when I turn my phone around. I have large and unwieldy thumbs. Consequently, I prefer the larger keyboard.

I'm also disappointed that there isn't an app for the iPad. That seems a little silly. Of rather blog on my iPad than on my iPhone any day. I might not use the app again.

On the upside, adding pictures looks like it is easier on the phone than on the desktop. I could even take a picture of my cool new Superman ear buds and post it straight away!

For a less-than-part-time blogger like myself, this little app should suit me just fine.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Here's another one, Jim.

This one took me a bit longer, and as you can see, Kara is more human in appearance (not a twig or super tall), covered from neck to toe (just like her cousin), and I even incorporated the "indestructible Kryptonian armor" element which axplained in the comics just recently. 

Now, I don't illustrate comics for a living, but if I did, I think I could come up with a few designs that aren't just plain offensive.  How, 'bout it Jim?

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Was that so hard Jim Lee?

I drew this in about 30 minutes after getting irritated by the complexity, irresponsibility, and skin exhibited by the redesigned Supergirl in DC Comics's "new 52". 

I honestly didn't find it all that difficult to come up with a new costume for Supergirl that was simple, tasteful, and responsible.

There has been a lot of well-deserved disgust heaped upon the creators at DC Comics since their highly publicized reboot of their entire lineup, especially regarding the rather unenlightened portrayals of their female heroes.  I'll grant that their new Supergirl is a slight improvement over the midriff-baring, miniskirt-wearing jailbait design of the recent past, but that isn't saying much.  Superman, Batman, and Green Lantern are completely covered from the neck down.  Why wouldn't the same standard apply to Supergirl, Starfire, and Wonder Woman?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Books are Long!

So, on my first pass getting the story for my children't book down in print, I estimated that the book would end up being about 20 pages long.  Curious, I went to some of Vivian's best books and discovered that the ones she enjoys the most, and the ones I like and am most drawn to, are about 25-35 pages long.  So now I am working on lengthening my book without it becoming too wordy.  This is good.  It means I can go overboard with the illustration a bit if I want.  I'm trying to tell the story in pictures as much as I can and use text to fill in the blanks.

Now, I'm not trying to compare my planned book to any of the classics we have on Vivian's bookshelf, but if I notice that the kind of book I am working on is generally longer than what I had planned, I think it is a good idea to find a way to add more illustration to the book to increase its length and tell a better story. 

I also may be limiting myself too much.  Just because I am basing my book on Roscoe, a real-life bulldog, doesn't mean I'm writing his biography.  If something helps to convey the story that didn't necessarily happen to him and me, isn't it legitimate.  I'm not doing journalism here.  I'm telling a story based on the life of my dog.  I'll have to keep a critical eye on the story (thank goodness I have a critic or two living with me) and make sure everything rings true. 

I started thumbnails for the book today, and I've got what I think are some good ideas.  Conveying emotion through a bulldog's face is going to be more difficult than one might think without the character becoming too cartoony.  I'm trying different ways to communicate anxiety, contentment, happiness, playfullness, confusion, and fear without turning Roscoe into the bulldog from old "Tom & Jerry" cartoons.  Thankfully, I've figured out how to reliably draw a cute bulldog puppy.  Is cute enough for a good story?  Probably not.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

The Protagonist

Here he is, the star of the children's book I began working on this week: Roscoe!  He went to doggy heaven a year ago this week, and working on this story now seems appropriate.  I got all emotional just working out the story this afternoon.  I'm going to tell his story.  I have plenty of memories to mine for material.

Of course, I wouldn't dream of writing a children's book without illustrating it myself.  I'm spending my time working on story and teaching myself how to draw bulldogs in various degrees of anthropomorphism until I find one that I like best.  It's tons of fun!

I'd like to thank all my friends who sent me photos of Roscoe to work with.  Mom, Nancy, and Danni so far.  And a special cyber shout-out to my sister-in-law who posted a short animal-drawing tutorial over at the site which hosts her online comic.  You should check it out (especially if you are a fan of Final Fantasy 7 and enjoy fanfic).  Here's the link for the tutorial, and here's the link for her comic!