"KILER BEES! You Forgot About Them, Didn't Ya?"

Oh man. So now we know where Glenn Beck got his shtick from.


Approaching Nugothotropolis

The freedom DC offers is something stranger, less commercial, but it still gives with possibilities. … If Marvel is the Communists, cutting off the intelligentsia and making all things mediocre and equal, DC is America, where it's every man for himself and this is a free country as long as you pledge allegiance to the flag.

It's the perfect place for Grant Morrison, whose comics "don't make sense" a lot anyway, who used to brag about using chaos to make magic. The editors have no time to wrangle a mind that big, in fact none of them have a mind that compares, and besides, he's Grant Morrison, and besides besides, our digital comics platform is coming soon, promise! Morrison can truly do whatever he wants at DC because he thrives on the continuity. He'd be doing it even if they didn't make him. It's his idea of fun to do a comic like Batman #700, where he pops out a Batman-TV-show-style villain team-up, makes Batman Beyond official continuity (brownie points!), creates some new characters for the next writer to degrade, and kills an old and useless one. DC loves it when their writers do that. They love this violent, past-obsessed kind of thing so much they let Morrison write out their future in big awesome-ugly Dave Finch pages, where Bruce Wayne lives to a ripe old post-DK2 age and the city of tomorrow is called "Nugothotropolis". There are new names, new visions, new ideas mixed in with the old ones, ideas from a yesterday and ideas for a tomorrow – unlike at Marvel where the idea is anathema and every day is the present. At DC, time and creativity flow like crude oil in the Gulf of Mexico, like blood from a Tony Daniel villain's mouth. That is to say, it's ugly and it's stupid and it's not something a lot of people want, but it's by-G** happening.


Matt Seneca of Death to the Universe on Batman, issue #700.

He's A Soul Man

Well, it's that time of week again, time for the MST3K Super Friends Club Drink & Draw event for the terrible film, Soultaker, starring the man among men, Joe Estevez.

The action starts tonight, July 14th, 2010, beginning at 9 pm Eastern time. Be there or be square.

Watch along on Netflix. Draw along with the movie. Follow along on Twitter with @theChrisHaley and @theJenya OR find all the great tweets using the hashtag #MST3kDandD. And there's always our Flickr pool for posting your drawerings.


Originally {or} The Ballad of Pablo Picasso

Candace has a great post up about inspiration, copycats and ethics on Etsy in light of our latest run-in with a plagiarist. You should go read it. She sums up a lot of what we discussed when this was all going down. I'm sure this won't be the last time we're ripped off. Our print has garnered enough popularity in the handmade and craft community that it's a sure target for sellers who want to make a buck without putting in the effort of creation. Which rankles, but hey, what can you do besides call them on it and hope they do the right thing? Thankfully, these people are in the minority in the community.

I mean, inspiration's one thing, and a very valuable thing at that, but wholesale plagiarism is another thing entirely. Picasso's quoted colloquially as saying that good artists copy and great ones steal, and that may be so, but when I read "steal," I think of it as a classy thing, you know? Like Danny Ocean and his boys knocking over a humongous, intricately-planned heist. Or David Niven in The Pink Panther. Artful stealing isn't looting, where you throw a brick and grab whatever you can without paying for it. A real thief, like a cat-burglar or a pick-pocket, steals with a style and effortlessness that leaves you, for a time, unaware that such theft has taken place. For a while, you don't even notice that the silverware drawer is emptied or the Ming vase is gone or your trouser pocket is one wallet lighter. And once the theft is realized, you're sort of amazed and a little envious that they pulled it off.

Like I said, inspiration is key when you're working creatively. But inspiration isn't appropriation. Inspiration is taking everything you experience – visually, psychologically and, yeah, spiritually – from the color of a traffic light in the afternoon or the composition of a comics page or a record in a thrift shop or the way you misread a word on a billboard or some TV show you remember from when you were a kid – and filtering that through your training and ability to best communicate what you're trying to say. Art, if you're doing it right, is communication. And if you're unwilling or unable to use your own words to communicate, well, that's just sad. This is why I don't use too much reference when I'm designing; it becomes a crutch that stands between you and real, honest-to-goodness inspiration. Which is not to say I haven't done an homage or utilized visual shorthand to get my point across. I have, (for example, my TARDIS poster is an obvious homage to the famous "Keep Calm & Carry On" posters of WW2 Britain. But for me, this made sense, as Doctor Who is another famous and instantly-recognizable British icon.) but most of the time, I prefer to arrive at my conclusions naturally.

One more apocryphal Picasso story and then we'll close. (Seriously, the dude's like the Buddha of Art with all these stories and sayings.) Legend has it that Pablo Picasso – who, I'm told, was never called an a**hole – was sitting in a café, just being all awesome and stuff, when somebody approached him for a portrait. He doodled for a second on a napkin and handed it to the person. Yay, Picasso! When the guy asked how much he owed Picasso, Picasso gave him an outrageous sum. The dude balked, saying "Look, I know you're Picasso and all that, but there's no way it's worth that much. It took you like 30 seconds, tops. And half of that time you spent looking at that lady's boobs."

"No, dude. It took me 40 years to make this." said Picasso. "You know, because I've been doing this for that long and so that's how I was able to do it so quickly. Get it? Also, I am Picasso and I an awesome. So, pay up."

Is the story true? Yes, it is. I know because I was there. But seriously, it makes a salient point as to what you're paying for when you pay for art. The physical act of creation (or copying) is not the sum of that creation. A lot of time is spent thinking, planning, wool-gathering, on top of the years of formal training and experience in order to produce a piece. Simply copying a term paper in one's own handwriting is still plagiarism – in fact it's the textbook definition of plagiarism. So, even though you spent the time and effort to rewrite every word from the original and even though you changed some words around and used a different colored pen, it's still a copy and a fraud. It's still devoid of original thought and feeling.

Bottom line: copying isn't cool. Don't do it.


Gas Up Your Supercycles

Tonight's the night. It's the Mystery Science Theater Drink & Draw, hosted by the fine folks at the MST3K Super Friends Club. The film we'll be watching is the post-apocalyptic stinker, Warrior of the Lost World.

The action gets revved up tonight, beginning at 9 pm Eastern time.

Watch along on Netflix. Draw along with the movie. Follow along on Twitter with @theChrisHaley and @theJenya OR find all the great tweets using the hashtag #MST3kDandD. And there's always our Flickr pool for posting your drawerings.

Nimoy vs. Shatner




Library Hijinx

So, here's why I can't go back to my local library branch.

Personally, I blame the Who. More specifically, I blame their 2006 rock opera, Endless Wire, which, although I have never heard it (a little more on this later), I can only imagine is pretty terrible. Seriously, there's no point in calling it a Who album if the band doesn't include Keith Moon or John Entwhistle. Duh. And Pete Townshend, enough with the rock operas. We get it, it's sort of your thing and they're all high-brown and stuff, but man, they suck. Okay, yeah Tommy's pretty widely enjoyed (even if I think it's sort of crap) and you've got me on Quadrophenia (it's a pretty great record), but Psychoderelict? The Iron Man? Lifehouse? White City? Nobody wants to hear that but old muso fogeys. It's boring.


It all started when I tried to renew David Byrne's Bicycle Diaries, which so far is pretty fantastic. I encountered an error on the Las Vegas Clark County Library District's newly-uglified website. Awesome. So, I figured there was some sort of error with the website transition and planned on dropping by my local branch to set it straight. So, while I was logged in, I looked into what books I still had checked out and saw that the system was showing me as having Travis' The Man Who record as well as the aforementioned Endless Wire still checked out, which was weird because, yeah, I'd never checked that out. I had checked out the Travis record in an effort to re-import it into my iTunes at a higher bitrate than what I had (256 kbps vs. the 128 kbps I had in there previously), but I remembered not needing to do so because, turns out, I had already re-ripped it. Awesome. But I'd returned The Man Who like a week and a half ago. Weird.

No worries, though. I was sure that the librarians could help me figure it out.

Big mistake.

First off, you guys know me. You know how I feel about libraries. If the Conservatives would chill out a little and let a brother live, I would marry libraries. Our babies would be books. Incredibly white books, but books nonetheless. And since returning to Vegas, I'd sort of grown to like my local library system, even though it treated me like both an employee and a criminal.

See, thanks to (I'm assuming) budget cuts and the relative inexpensiveness of RFID tags, most of the stuff that used to be handled by employees of the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District – stuff like pulling held items and checking out those items – have now devolved onto the shoulders of the patrons. Which is kind of cool in a "pick your own strawberries," sort of way, I guess. I don't have to feel guilty about putting a bunch of stuff on hold or checking out a pile of DVDs or CDs, since I'm having to do all that work myself instead of a LVCCLD employee. This does, however lead to a few annoying moments, like, for instance, if the security device on one of your items decides not to deactivate no matter how many times you wave it across the pad in like a million directions and you and the always borderline psychopathic security guard are stuck trying to figure out which item is causing the doorway thingies to beep like you're stealing something.

And yeah, I can sort of understand why you won't give my kid a library card without me showing some sort of proof of residency even though I myself have a library card that I had to show proof of residency in order to procure. I mean, it seems a little extreme (we're not buying a car or applying for a credit card here, you know?) but there are enough charlatans in Vegas that I can see how you'd need to be a little more strict, I guess, even though I told the guy who told me so that I thought this was a "pretty dumb" policy before I stormed off with my sad kid.

So anyway, LVCCLD is sort of like a gulag, where you're forced to labor while being treated like criminals. (So I'm being dramatic. Sue me.) I should have known that I was in trouble when I moseyed up to the counter and got the same guy who rejected my kids' library card application without proof of residency and the same guy who had told me that he just couldn't bend the rules and let me check out this one extra held DVD because it would put me over the limit, thereby causing me to return the very next day to return one DVD and check out the other one. This guy's been here for years. I remember when he was a high-schooler re-shelving returns back in the good old days, where you'd find me sitting on one of those step-stools in front of the CDs or lurking in the section that held the same five graphic novels I'd read before. Aaaaah, memories. Based on my previous encounters with him, something told me that there would be "nothing he could do" to help me out with this The Man Who/Who snafu.

Sure enough, he was powerless in the face of bureaucracy. The Who CD belonged to another branch and I'd have to "go down there" and work it out with them.

"Um, no. I'm not 'going down there,' to fix this. That's crazy." I said. "Obviously, this is a mix-up of some sort, I never checked out this Who CD."

No, he assured me, I had checked it out. It was nigh impossible that it would show up as being checked out to me if it were not so, but since this belongs to ______ branch, they would have to fix it. There was, he informed me, "nothing he could do." Well, he could do one thing: he could renew Bicycle Diaries for me. Anything more than that was just too difficult. Gee, thanks. You're a pro and a bro.

(I should also add here that during this entire exchange, this dude's giving me the old "Oh man, not this a**hole again," look.)

So, I left frustrated and went about my business, too flustered and flummoxed by the Red Tape Tango to remember that I had the complete Twin Peaks on hold. Which is how I found myself totally sneaking in a few hours later to try and stealthily check it out without running into my nemesis. Except guess what? The self-service machine informs me that there's a "HOLD SHELF CONFLICT" and I can't check it out. So, it's back to the circulation desk. Yipee.

I see my nemesis shifting in his chair, but he's "helping" another customer, so I get a youngish woman who, apparently, is familiar enough with the situation (Hey, I've worked in this type pf atmosphere before. I'm sure he was commiserating with her about this guy who always gets mad when I just flat-out refuse to do anything for him.) to inform me that my account is on hold until I "go down there" to the other location and get this sorted out. She is equally ineffectual, unable to do anything beyond telling me that maybe I can call "down there" and see if they can fix it over the phone. But again, despite my insistence that I never checked out this Who CD, there's just nothing she or, apparently, anyone else can do to help me.

So, I call "down there" and proceed to vent on this poor lady who, again, can do nothing to help me other than calm me down a bit. She tells me I'd have to call first thing Monday morning and talk to their head of circulation and see if there was anything she could do. She did give me the bar-code for the Travis CD and gave me some tips for dealing with my local branch.

Only one problem; it's Saturday. This is gonna bug me all weekend if I have to wait until Monday. Maybe, just maybe there's *something" my local branch can do. Let's call them. Why not, right?

So, back into it. I call my local branch and talk to the same lady I spoke with like a half-hour earlier. I try and find out how this might have happened and she's totally not helpful, bordering on hostile. It's decided: I checked both of them out and must have switched them, despite the fact that I'm sitting here, telling her, "No. I never checked out that Who CD. Why would I? It's probably terrible!"

"I don't know, but that's the only solution." So, could they have been mixed up before I checked them out? Because I don't think I even opened that one. "I don't know. The other branch will have to answer that for you because that Travis CD isn't here. You must still have it." Um, I don't have it. I returned it. "Well, did you keep the receipt?" No. It gave me the option to print my receipt and I pressed "No." Thought I'd save a receipt tree. "Well, you'll probably have to pay to replace the Travis CD, then. Maybe the other one, too, the Endless Wire one. You should always keep your receipts." Then why not just make the receipts mandatory, if they're your only recourse in a situation like this? Why give me the option? "Well, some people don't want them." Yeah, uh, like me. But can't you check and see that I returned this or, I mean, if it came from another branch, wouldn't I have had to request it? Can you look that up and see that I never requested it? "No, we don't keep those records." Really? "Really."


"So," I ask, "let me get this straight, if I can't get this other branch to fix this, I'm going to have to pay for this CD I know I returned as well as this other one I never checked out."


"This is bordering on Kafka-esque here, m'am." I chuckle in frustration, half-expecting to sprout cockroach wings at any moment. "Can you see why this is very frustrating?"

"I guess so, yes. But, like I said," say it with me, kids, "there's nothing we can do on this end."

"Alright. Thanks." And I hang up, defeated. But no sooner have I hung up and start to explain the conversation to Candace – who has already figured it all out and is just being nice at this point, pitying her poor, "special needs" husband who has to somehow beat the system to feel sort of like he isn't insignificant in a world that has rendered him neutral – that I think of another angle to try and weasel myself between the bureaucracy and what I want. To the Dolt-Phone!

So I call back. I know, I know. I'm "That Guy." But this time I end up getting the reference desk somehow. I can sort of picture the guy I'm talking to because I mean, there are like a half dozen people working there and I'm there like once a week. So I explain to him my situation. He pulls up my account and goes to see if he can figure out what's going on.

I'm on hold and it's playing "On Hold," music which, who makes this stuff? I wonder if it's "the Overture," from the Who's epic Endless Wire opus and start to cry on the inside. The music plays on, some weird mixture of easy listening and ambient noise. Tuneless, formless. Audio ficusses dotting the landscape of waiting.

Aaand, just when I think he's forgotten about me, the Reference Dude is back. I brace myself for the lament of impotence; the inevitable, "There's nothing we can do, but maybe if you call this person 'down there' they can help you, even though I know dang well they can't."

Instead, I'm met with a, "Well, okay. I think we figured this out. It looks like the CDs were mixed up when you checked them out." Lo & behold! "Why couldn't this have been figured out the first time?" I wonder to myself, but keep it there for fear of angering the Library Gods. Reference Dude tells me that they'll take care of it. The other stuff has been taken off my account and I should be good to go. I refresh my browser window and KA-BLAM! he's right. Justice – like lightning!

"Are you serious?!" I exclaim, "This is great! You're the fourth person I've spoken to and none of them could help me." I am overflowing with love for Reference Dude.

"Okay." he retorts, probably wanting to be rid of This Dude Who Just Won't Stop.

Not one to know when to stop, I say, "Thank you. You are an incredible person. If I were standing in front of you, I would hug you." Yeah, I did. This is almost an exact quote. Sensing that I have crossed some sort of line because I am totally socially retarded, and, well, I totally have, I say thanks again, get an "Okay, okay," in return and hang up.

And that, ladies and gentlemen of the Internet, is why I can never go into that library branch again, at least not without some sort of disguise. Does anybody know where a fella can get a decent fake mustache in Las Vegas?

"Home Is Where I Wanna Be"

In case you missed it, we've added a new poster to the Sparkle Power stable with the new "Home Sweet Home," series. Six colors, one happy house. Head over to the shop and pick one up. They make a great housewarming gift. Buy ten of them.


That's America … To Me

Another Bruce monologue. Have a safe and sane Independence Day, kids.

Also, don't forget that if you share my latest mix, I'll send you a bonus mix, which could come in handy this weekend.

Have fun. Don't blow off any digits.


Take Me Back To Wondaland

Hey hey hey. July is here and so is the newest mix. Also, it is hot as the center of Hell in Vegas right now. But this mix, this mix is cool. You can download it here. Featuring songs from The Shins, Vampire Weekend (yeah, again), Wilco, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings (yay!), The Dutch Rhythm Steel & Show Band, Paul Simon, Jan & Dean (I've been waiting to work this track in for a while now), Elliott Smith, Graham Nash, Frank Black, Esquivel, Janelle Monáe (you should really check out her new album The ArchAndroid, it's really pretty great), Jens Lekman (of course), The Beatles, Bruce & Terry, The Ventures, Hanoi Janes, The Tammys, Gnarls Barkley and The Drums. It's Hammock Rock, basically.

There are more mixes over on the Master List. Feel free to share it with anyone and everyone. In fact, if you do share it (on Facebook, Twitter or on your blog), drop a link or comment and I will send you a very special Independence Day mix. For realsies.

Let me repeat: If you share this mix, I will send you a special mix.

That is all. Enjoy.