Category Archives: Culture, Arts and Popcorn

The (drawing) pen is mightier than the contract

This is my favourite news story in a long time. At a concert last Saturday in Quebec City, the Foo Fighters demanded that news photographers sign a contract allowing news outlets to print their photos exactly once, after which over all rights to those photos would pass to the band’s management company. Photographers would never see another dime, or even necessarily get credit.

Oh, and according to Global News, Foo Fighters’ management had the right to nix any photos before publication.

So how did Quebec City newspaper Le Soleil respond? Continue reading

Putting Your Best Foot Forward

Self-promotion for comic artists: insights from the VanCAF panel

Last weekend’s Vancouver Comic Arts Festival was pretty much everything I’d hoped for, with one predictable exception: getting to exhibit for the first time meant missing a lot of terrific panels.

But thanks to some terrific and talented neighbours (Nikkie and Cam Woo, Alex Steacy and Patrick Wong), I was able to leave my patch of table to catch one panel I’d found particularly interesting: Best Foot Forward: Promoting Your Comics and Yourself.

Animated by Lucy Bellwood, the session offered advice and insight from Kel McDonald, Shannon LeClerc and Ken Steacy (Alex’s dad, as it turns out!)

Lucy has posted the session online, which is terrific – not only for comic artists, but for anybody thinking about how to better promote themselves and their work.

And if you’re the kind of person who needs something to look at while they listen, well, my friend, have I got the sketchnotes for you:

And speaking of self-promotion… there’s still a little merchandise left over from the festival! I’ll be posting shortly about a few STAGGERING DEALS that could be yours at STARTLINGLY LOW PRICES. (Cartoonists hate him! Vancouver man’s weird trick puts humorous cartoons right into your hands!!)

Interesting Vancouver

Interesting Vancouver: November 7

I’m going to be one of several folks on stage on November 7 at Interesting Vancouver. Check out this lineup:

  • A seven foot tall drag queen obsessed with bingo
  • An indigenous multidisciplinary artist working to reverse the decline of Squamish language speakers
  • A soft-spoken senior with a passion for photographing punk rock shows
  • A 14 year old national champion YoYo-er
  • A speech writer and communications specialist who is a closet cartoonist
  • A composer who heals people through improvised music as they lay under his pian
  • A mechanical engineer turned clown who has the balls to live a professional life of PLAY!
  • A genderqueer youth who dabbles; from roller derby to making ukuleles to transforming t-shirts
  • Canada’s first Sikh commanding officer who passionately believes in the ripple effect
  • An engineer who went from making microscopic brain implants to two story tall racing robots
  • A popular film and TV actress who credits Vipassana meditation for saving her life
  • A paramedic/magician/artist who will change your life before you leave the room

Come on out! Tickets are just $25, and with folks like these, you can expect to surpass interesting and hit downright fascinating.

SFU Woodward’s
Goldcorp Centre for the Arts
149 W Hastings Street
Vancouver, British Columbia V6B 1H4
Friday, November 7, 2014 from 6:00 PM to 11:00 PM (PST)


You are cordially invited to come see me make jokes

Comedy sensei David Granirer has teamed with Vancouver comic Al Hassam to launch a new open mic night Wednesdays at La Fontana Caffe. It debuts tonight.

And I’ll be hitting their stage for a set at their October 15th show, to which you are cordially invited. It starts at 7:30 pm. There’s no cover charge, and the venue (on Hastings Street at Boundary) gets a lot of love on Yelp.

Book your free seat now at 604-298-4004. See you there! Continue reading

A truly thorough takedown (and a little personal honesty)

It’s impossible not to compare John Oliver to Jon Stewart. My take on his guest-hosting The Daily Show stint was that he actually delivers a more cogent, sophisticated and nuanced rant than Jon Stewart, and that’s still the case now that he’s at HBO with Last Week Tonight. Witness this blistering (and funny) attack on FIFA. And I love that his conclusion acknowledges the ambivalence so many of us face, torn between our love of sport or culture, and our revulsion at the ethical sewer that often lies just underneath.

Correction: there is no “CSI: Sesame Street”

CSI: Sesame Street - Brought to you by the letters D O & AOwing to an inadvertent and unfortunate combination of prescription and over-the-counter medications, our TV columnist’s last “Best Picks for Kids This Week” column contained several errors. To clarify:

  • There are no television shows entitled “Real Housewives of Busytown” or “CSI: Sesame Street.”
  • The latest season of “Curious George” did not end on a cliffhanger episode in which George contracts rabies and barricades himself in the cottage with a terrified Allie, concluding with a grief-stricken Man in the Yellow Hat quietly telling Wint Quint to “take the shot.”
  • Martin Kratt did not lick a cane toad. Nor did he activate a creature power suit using Kodiak bear DNA, black out for half an hour, and then come to only to discover Chris missing and the Tortuga awash in gore.
  • The Super Readers are a group of friends and not an elite paramilitary strike team, and there is no impending coup d’état in Storybrook Village. We categorically disavow the opinion that “the power to help” is “a sop thrown to the sheeple to distract them from Whyatt’s naked New World Order ambitions.”
  • Poko‘s ability to create things out of thin air by drawing them with his finger may be viewed as either magic or the product of his vivid child-like imagination. It does not to the best of our knowledge denote affiliation with Satan.
  • There is no “hidden feature on every school bus” that will summon Ms. Frizzle and activate its Magic School Bus capabilities if the emergency exit is opened while the bus is moving at 45 MPH or faster.

We apologize for any inconvenience.

(For more accurate guidance on kids’ TV and other children’s media, may we recommend Common Sense Media?)

Cartoon-blogging Cory Doctorow and William Gibson

Here are my notes from Saturday’s event with Cory Doctorow in conversation with William Gibson. (I attended with Dave Eaves, which meant I got to experience two terrific conversations that afternoon.) The hour and a half ranged over everything from the First-World problems of book tours to American gun culture — and of course intellectual property and those who use it to stifle the exchange of ideas and creativity.

The full-size version is 1,600 glorious pixels wide. Just click this smaller one to see the whole thing:

Sketchnotes from Cory Doctorow and William Gibson in conversation at the Vancouver Writers Festival

Quick footnotes:

  1. Many thanks to the Vancouver Writers Fest, one of the great things about living in this city.
  2. Leading with big faces is a bold move for a man who can’t actually caricature. Any resemblance to the actual individuals is purely fortuitous.
  3. July 1982: I bought a copy of Omni Magazine and read “Burning Chrome,” and I don’t think I’ve really recovered from it, nor do I want to. Thirty years ago.
  4. Cory Doctorow’s latest book is Pirate Cinema, and it’s part of the amazing Humble Bundle of e-books. It’s a staggering good value. I’m off to buy it.

Rediscover your lost favourite songs in iTunes

Rob playing air guitarThe past decade has been a boon for music lovers (once you get past the whole most-digital-music-sucks thing). The iPod turns 10 years old this October; as you’ll no doubt recall from much of the commentary at the time, it was Apple’s biggest mistake and quickly vanished into obscurity.

But the iPod wasn’t the world’s first portable digital music player… and it wasn’t even Apple’s first foray into that space. That honour goes to iTunes, which turns 10 years old on Sunday.

iTunes has turned us all into our own personal DJs, with the ability to create and update playlists – either manually or automatically, using iTunes’ powerful Smart Playlist feature. You end up with separate playlists for the gym, for your morning commute, for your afternoon commute, for dinner parties, for keeping the kids happy during long drives, for getting the kids to fall asleep during long drives…

But one of the side effects of playlists is you start to forget the stuff that isn’t in them. Apple gives you a Smart Playlist called “My Top Rated”, but that can quickly become a self-fulfilling (and repetitive) prophecy if you aren’t diligent about rating your songs. You may find that you have thousands of songs on your iPod, iPhone or Mac, but you end up listening to the same handful over and over again because, well, they’re the ones that are in your playlists.

Now, if you’re the kind of person who relentlessly mines their music collection to freshen their playlists, then you don’t have this problem. But for a lot of us who don’t do that kind of spelunking very often, and who have songs that we’ve actually forgotten we own, a little automation can help unearth some lost gems.

So I’ve created two Smart Playlists to help me keep the hits coming.

The first is for routine listening. It uses several criteria:

  • Rating is greater than three stars.
  • Genre is not Podcast, Children, Voice Memo, Comedy or Spoken Word
  • Media Kind is Music

I limit the list to 100 songs, selected by least recently played.

The result is a playlist include songs I’ve liked in the past, but haven’t heard recently. (Depending on your listening behaviour, you’ll want to tweak the rating setting to populate the playlist with enough songs. You may also need to exclude a few more genres.)

The second is for discovery. I duplicated the first playlist, but changed the rating criteria to less than one star – that is, unrated. As I listen to that list, I find I do a lot of skipping… but I also rate the songs as I go. (And often I’ll just plow through a bunch of them in iTunes.) That helps to feed my routine listening list as well as all my other Smart Playlists that rely on ratings.

Thanks to this setup, right now I’m listening to “Somehow” by The Vapors, which I haven’t heard in years. Next up is “The Way It Goes” (iTunes) by Wild Strawberries. If you try something like this, and recover some long-lost treasure from the dusty corners of the iTunes vault, let me know what it is.

Update: Kate Trgovac has created what I now consider to be the good version of this post, including the key missing ingredient: a screen shot. And if you want to take a more rigorous (and quite possibly more satisfying) approach, check out this amazing system of playlists and scripts from Maximilian.