Comics laureate

Photograph: DC Comics

Photograph: DC Comics

From The Bookseller:

Graphic novelist Dave Gibbons is to become the UK’s first comics laureate.

Gibbons was appointed at the launch of new charity Comics Literacy Awareness (CLAw) at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival on Friday 17th October, by graphic novelist Scott McCloud.

The title of comics laureate will be appointed biennially to a distinguished comics writer or artist in recognition of their outstanding achievement in the field. Their role is to champion children’s literacy through school visits, training events for school staff and education conferences.

Gibbons has won praise for his comics and graphic novel work for Marvel and DC Comics, including Watchmen (with Alan Moore), 2000AD and Doctor Who.

He said: “It’s a great honour for me to be nominated as the first comics laureate. I intend to do all that I can to promote the acceptance of comics in schools. It’s vitally important not only for the pupils but for the industry too.”

Gibbons will take up his two-year position from February 2015.

And by way of follow up, the Guardian has a curious piece by David Barnett entitled:

Five must-read graphic novels that prove comics are worthy of a laureate

My immediate reaction was to query the number? Why only five? If anything, it sets off the cynic in me to suggest that the writer couldn’t find five more decent comics to make up a top ten. This is not to say there is a shortage of quality comics (aka graphic novels) – there isn’t – but even a dabbler in the field like me could come up with a chunky list that would challenge several of those on that list of five.

Check out the piece here, noting that the comments give a decent spread of contenders for the list as well. So, you may pick up recommendations for a life’s worth of reading.

Song and dance routine

You may have heard about the storm over the New York Metropolitan Opera’s decision to stage “The Death of Klinghoffer,” a work based on the 1985 Achille Lauro hijacking by the PLO and their murder of Leon Klinghoffer.

The Times of Israel has a review of the performance and protests (see here) from which this entertaining extract comes:

But to protesters truly worried that this is dangerous anti-Semitic propaganda ready to sow seeds of hate, I can tell you as someone who watched it, it is not. And even if it were, I can’t think of a less effective way to spread propaganda than with a difficult, boring and (mostly) tuneless opera.

I’m against censorship, so I am OK with the fact the show went on.

(I wish it were a commercial flop – and given the review, you might think it should be a disaster – but the suspicion is that the whole shooting match is being sponsored by a trouble making faction. So all the publicity is its own reward.)

I’m not saying the motives of the promoters were as pure as the driven artistic ideal they pretend, but that’s impossible to know for sure. I understand the protests, and have every sympathy for the poor Klinghoffer family. As some of the protesters said, it will be a long time – if ever – before we see an opera about the ISIS murders. Funny that.

Wonders of suburbia

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To get back into the swing of regular gaming sessions was a great feeling. And it was a good session with one old and one new game on the table.

The old favorite – well, for everyone except Peleg – was 7 Wonders. The other players were Yehuda, Saarya, and Sheer.

Peleg was easily the best with the blue victory points, but he had not very much anywhere else and wasn’t surprised to avoid being in contention. Saarya did well with his military points, but again needed something from one of the other VP areas. Sheer and Yehuda were competing for the green victory points and both did well, with Yehuda slightly ahead there. Sheer’s military power was better, though. To my delight, I had managed to build up a nice spread of victory points across various color groups, and that was enough to give me the win.

Yehuda and Sheer stayed for our first game of Suburbia. The theme is city building (it is a tile laying game) and essentially you are trying to use the interactive features of each tile to create an economic engine that generates income, reputation, and a growing population. You need money to buy tiles to add to your borough. Your reputation determines how quickly your population grows. The player with the highest population at the end wins.

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You track each player’s population on a scoring track that has a series of red lines. Each time you cross a red line – going in the right direction, upwards – your income and reputation go down by one. So you are constantly having to regenerate income and reputation.

Each player has a secret goal. For example, to have the most blue tiles in the borough, or the least green tiles. (There are 20 on the game and each player receives 2 at the start, choosing one to keep.) Yehuda did not like the “fewest” goals, but I thought they added a tactical twist. There are also public goals. Each goal, if solely attained, generates 10-20 extra population and so these are crucial.

It all makes for a challenging game.

Yehuda is excellent at these engine type games and he shot off to an early lead, concentrating on income, then switching to a concentration on growing the population.

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I cottoned on too late, and although I managed to eventually overhaul Yehuda’s population figure, the various bonuses at the end of the game gave him the win. Sheer seemed more intent on trying things out than maximizing his score. I think he was enjoying the combinations, but not the scoring. He made a late run, but it was not enough.

I enjoyed the game, as did the others, and expect we will play it again.

Taming the Jag

From The Register:

Want a more fuel efficient car? Then redesign it – here’s how

Crawling from the Wreckage

Cars are mass-produced consumer products sold to users who mostly know very little about them. They are optimised to make a profit for the manufacturer, so low build cost is paramount for most manufacturers – which automatically excludes many design and engineering ideas that would raise efficiency. John Watkinson has been busy in the garage and applied those concepts to his own vehicle and found that they work.

It’s the introduction to a piece by John Watkinson that starts as follows:

Like many others, my greatest problems are, or at least were, energy costs. I’ve solved my household energy problems, but that’s another story. Here I’m talking about solving vehicle efficiency problems – basically reducing the cost and the environmental impact of running a car.

As a designer, one of the problems I find is that consumer products are, almost by definition, sub-optimal and the more cut-throat the market, the more sub-optimal they will be. Cars fall into that category. Under that nice paint job can be some very questionable engineering. Accept that and the process of ceasing to be a consumer has begun.

It’s a terrific article – though of practical use for a very limited subset of motoring and technology enthusiasts – well worth your time to read. Well done that man!

Read it all, here.

Whiplash

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Whiplash is a movie about music, ambition, dedication, persistence, and power. The central story is that of a would be drummer at a top musical school, egged on by a dangerously manipulative teacher, who will go well beyond the normal boundaries of encouragement to get the best out of his students.

Miles Teller plays the part of the drummer Andrew and is perfect. He’s a real drummer, which is a big advantage. But do not let that detract from his actual acting performance. He can play the drums, but he can also act.

Jonathan Kimble Simmons is the abusive teacher (and conductor and band leader) called Fletcher and his performance is equally good. It’s a great role, and he delivers it with gusto. I expect he really enjoyed the part, and that comes across in his very natural poise and presence through a variety of key scenes.

Beyond that, there is a plot that has a bit of padding and couple of well done nasty twists, and the music.

First, the plot. There’s a bit of padding with some love interest between Andrew and a young girl, and there’s also Andrew’s family situation featuring a single parent father.

Oh, the music. The focus here is on jazz music. I don’t like jazz music. There were times when I could have done with less of the music, but I expect my opinion to be a minority one. Further, it may be taken as greater praise that I liked the film despite the music!

Go see it. It’s a smart film with a bit more depth than the ‘boy out to make his way in the world’ story might sound like. And if you like jazz, you would be mad to miss it.

Other side of the counter

Counter magazine has been the host of the best, most consistent, most honest, and worthwhile (euro) game reviews since its first issue. After 66 issues as a dead tree press publication – one you can read in the bath without risking electrocution – the latest issue announces the end of that era. From December 2014 issue, Counter will only be available as a downloadable online magazine.

Last post for Counter

Last post for Counter

Good stuff: it will be cheaper – certainly for us alien overseas subscribers. It will have some color. There will be no postal delays. Most importantly, it will continue.

Bad stuff: Counter’s current online presence (here and here) does not show much promise of being up to date, nor a place of activity. (I wonder if there’s more happening at Boardgame Geek, a forum I really, really, really, do not like as a discussion place. It appears not.)

I am fearful that the Counter guys have underestimated the effect of switching to an online publication. They may need to make more of an effort between issues than they would like. They may suffer from comparison with other online review sites. (There, speed of review after game publication seems more highly valued than the quality of the content.) Maybe I am wrong and they have it all under control and well planned. Presumably there will be a wee bit of time spent discussing this at Essen.

I do wish them luck. I very much want to see the other side of the Counter, and for it to continue for a long time.

Academic fails to think

From the Guardian, a little insight into part of Australian society:

Professor Barry Spurr suspended by Sydney University over offensive emails

Spurr, a consultant to the federal government’s national English curriculum review, has been suspended over ‘serious allegations’, university says

The University of Sydney has suspended Prof Barry Spurr over emails in which he called the prime minister, Tony Abbott, an “Abo lover”, Indigenous Australians “human rubbish tips” and Nelson Mandela as a “darky”.

In a statement, the university said Spurr was facing “serious allegations in relation to offensive emails sent from a university account”.

Spurr, a poetry expert, was a specialist consultant to the federal government’s national curriculum review looking at English from foundation to year 12.

The emails, first obtained by website New Matilda, have seriously damaged the review’s findings, with Labor calling them “tainted” and the Australian Education Union saying the review had been exposed as “an ideological waste of time from the start”.

In a series of emails over two years sent to senior academics and officials within the university, Spurr wrote that Abbott would have to be surgically separated from his “Siamese twin”, Australian of the Year and AFL star Adam Goodes, who is Aboriginal.

He said the university’s chancellor, Belinda Hutchinson, was an “appalling minx”,’ while other women were described as “whores”. He used terms such as “mussies” and “chinky-poos”.

Oh dear.

Here’s a prime example (if it is true) of how a smart guy, a noted academic, failed to think:

Spurr had not responded on Friday, but has said previously the emails were part of a “whimsical” game with another person to outdo each other in extreme statements and were not meant to be taken seriously.

Not a great idea to play such a daft game.

There’s a whimsical interest of mine to know whether his professional abilities as a poet were a major factor in his attraction to a game of racist name calling. Is that performance art, perhaps?

Given the Guardian’s promotion of its own manifesto in its Middle East reporting, is there any of the same phenomenon going on here? For example, whatever the quality of Aboriginal literary culture may or may not be, does the Guardian believe it should be positively promoted? Regardless? If any independent thinkers out there (who are knowledgeable on the subject) would care to enlighten me, I would be grateful.

See the complete train wreck, here.

Five for Friday

It is terrific to have another rest day off before the return to work. Even if Friday – especially during the early start months – is a bit of a strange day, dealing with loose ends is a better way of getting ready for work than going straight from holiday mode to desk mode.  Unfortunately for those observant Jews in the diaspora, they are enduring a three day chag and will not surface until motzei Shabbat. That is tough. For some, that alone is a reason to make aliyah!

I have not shirked my scheduled posting duty, so you will find a range of links for your interest, to kick the weekend off with something serious, sad, smile-inducing, or strange.

Shabbat Shalom!