On Scanning comics and magazines

While I applauded the sheer amount of unnecessarily large file sizes with stupidly large amount information in scans in my last post about the subject, here I’ll be arguing against this to some extent. It’s all about where you want to go with the result and what you want to preserve.

Perhaps the main example is what you’re aiming at; the original artwork at the core, or the magazine itself. Old magazines tend to yellow their pages, so the question becomes extremely relevant. The lower quality the paper printed on, the worse the picture will end up being. Furthermore, I’ll be using comic scans for this post alone, and at a later date talk about magazine scans that are in colour at some later date as that’s another whole thing. To illustrate the diaspora, I’ll need to use proper examples, right after the jump. We’re bound to have large images sizes in this post, as I don’t want to showcase itty bitty pictures if I can help it.

Continue reading “On Scanning comics and magazines”

Games as products

With Google coming out with their version of cloud gaming with Stadia, they really went all-out with selling multiple concepts as something completely new despite in reality most of them being already existing. For example, they were selling a Share button as something new, despite the PS4 controller already having it. The function and connection might be unique to Google and how it’s tied to Youtube and such, yet at the core it is all about the whole sharing pictures or video with whatever social media or video site you use. Another example of course is the whole concept of gaming on demand itself. Vortex has offered this sort of service for some time now without any separate consoles or devices needed. OnLive officially launched with a tiny receiver console back  in 2010, and closed its doors when Sony acquired its patents in 2015. Sony did the same thing for Gaikai 2014, and PlayStation Now is supposedly a thing. NVIDIA’s GeForce NOW and NVIDIA GRID are both offering cloud gaming to users. Microsoft already told us last year about Project xCloud that it’d be some sort of cloud gaming service. Even EA has its fingers in the model as well with upcoming Project Atlas. France has Shadow by Blade SAS Group, which spread into 19 US states and at least intended to spread further. LOUDPLAY is another gaming on demand model that was showcasing 5G in partnership with Rostelecom and Huawei, and mostly seemed to stay in Eastern Europe.

The only true difference with Stadia and all previous models is that Google has more money to throw at it, probably a better infrastructure to make streaming games a better experience. However, what Google and all these other companies want to sell you is the idea of games as a model of service rather than product. They’re of course mixing the language a bit here, as a product is whatever you sell to the consumer. A product can be goods or a service. Nevertheless, all that money thrown at the infrastructure will probably mean it’ll be the best kind of gaming on demand to date, that’s their ticket to make themselves stand out. Even with this they still need games for people to play, games that they can’t play anywhere else. Well good thing Google announced their own game studio, as it seems to struggle to get other companies on-board. All we know that it’ll have an Assassin’s Creed game and the upcoming Doom Eternal, both of which you can play on other platforms as well. You don’t sell a service without content. What Google is doing is selling you a really nice looking string and nail for you painting, promising that there’s gonna be a really well made frame and picture later on.

As much as the recent debacle of Epic Game Store doing stuff to get exclusives to their platform, exclusives still are lifeline for different platforms. While many think that if you need PC to play a game, then it is a PC game. Of course this isn’t the case, Epic Games Store is as much a digital console as Steam is. Real PC gaming wouldn’t need to be tied to either one of them to any extent. Nevertheless, while there has been a kind of cold war between GOG and Steam, Epic has made it heat up. There are numerous people who don’t use Epic because their game library and friends are on Steam, and they don’t want to begin using a new service. This is brand loyalty at its core though, as if there was no limitations with PC gaming any and all services would already see people logging in. If PC Gamer is to be believed, about 40% of Epic Game Store’s users don’t have a Steam account.

The PC gaming market is a market space of its own, separate from the console space. The differences are not only in methods and software, but in business models and devices as well. GOG, DLSite, Steam and Epic are all in this one space battling each other, with the likes of Vortex doing something different, but I doubt many have even heard of Vortex. Stadia’s entering this space with bold new steps and they’ve got nothing to show for. Technology will take you only so far. Even in console space the device with the least power of the major players has seen the most sales, and often the largest library. While some will argue against this with saying the Mega Drive was weaker than the SNES, they always forget the X32 and Sega CD exist. Then you get to a debate whether or not you only count base consoles only or if add-ons are applicable. For the sake of argument, and reality, all the updates and upgrades should be taken into account for the most whole picture possible.

Nevertheless, what will decide the success of any of the platforms, be it in console or computer space, is the games. Your service will be worth jackshit nothing if it doesn’t have anything to offer. Hyping Stadia because you could be playing games anywhere with Chrome and Google devices? At this point in time, you only have two options. Certainly there will be more in the future, but without a doubt most options will be the same as on other platforms. Stadia, in order to succeed over its competitors in computer space, requires to offer content you can’t find anywhere else.

That’s the rub though. Not the games or the like, but that it requires Chrome or a Google device. Google exclaimed to high how this product is for everyone, putting down all consoles and their games, but not all people use Chrome. Chrome may have the largest market share at 65%, but that’s excluding all the people who still use IE, people who mainly use FireFox or its forks like me, Edge, Safari or Opera. There’s also Brave Browser, which you really should check out if you’re into data safety. Their bold claim for this product to be for everyone rings hollow, as with cloud gaming all the cards and choices are in Google’s hands. I guess people are willing to give complete and total power over the goods and services they buy nowadays to the provider, and have effectively very little in return. You can expect for exclusive games to appear on Stadia in the future, and after their license has expired in a way or another, they’ll vanish altogether, never to be played any more. Digital-only will always meet that fate, and we’ve already lost more than enough games  to this.

Scanning as an act of preservation

As much as piracy get the bad rap from those who seemingly suffer from it, it has constantly functioned as a tool of archiving, even if by accident. I doubt too many groups who ripped games or people who uploaded and shared music on eMule were thinking that they were doing historical archival of the era’ popular culture. This is probably best reflected in how things were, and still are, scanned. Be it books, booklets, manuals etc. you’ll most likely end up with scans that are harshly compressed and filled with artifacting across the board, destroying the original information of the image. This is like having lower and lower bitrate in digital music files, except worse, because usually scans around are of low resolution. Sadly, there are times when original works have been all but lost, and the only things we’re left is  sub-150dpi scans with heavy compression thrown in. They don’t stand to modern standards, they never really did.

Scanning guides on the Internet often seem to recommend using medium settings for the output file, arguing that it’ll save disk space. This may have been an argument in earlier days of computing, when space was at premium. With time, this has become effectively a non-issue, especially with Cloud storage being a thing. Keeping websites light was also a priority, so finding that sweet spot between good-enough quality and load times was important. 56kb dial-up modems weren’t exactly the most effective way to transfer data around, but that’s what was available at the time and can’t really complain about that. Nowadays with blazingly fast connections on our phones, that’s not exactly an issue. All sites are more or less Java hells anyway. Of course, a lot of sites that carry any sort of scans or cover photos would like to keep everything rather small in size in order to avoid copyright infringing claims. Amazon often has small scans from God know when for older products, and even some new products have extremely limited size, from which you can’t really see much. Again, the bandwidth and storage space is cited to be the issue, but nothing really would keep these guys from using a thumbnail as a link that would send the user directly into the largest possible version of the image available. We should of course consider that allowing everyone access to highest possible version to an image might lead into easier copyright infringing or knock-off productions, but tracing exists for a reason.

Because this post will be heavy on images, more after the jump.

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No one true point of view

Very rarely there is way true way to do thing. Options are always about and different methods to be utilised. Views and takes differ wildly from people to people, which make events and situations completely impossible to discern in an objective manner. It doesn’t help that there are those who would willfully obfuscate matters at hand for their own ends, which in turn tends to make matters seem more extreme than they truly are. At times, this can lead into one point of view to become so prevalent that it is accepted as true, which loses the nuance of things. For example, the Covington kids situation, where media and people jumped the gun based on intentionally falsified information. CNN and other news outlets and personalities are now being sued for defaming these kids under false accusations. After all, the video footage was there for everyone to see, but nobody really did the leg work. This is rather clear cut case, but in case of something the #GamerGate, it is still being obfuscated and twisted to serve whatever narrative a supposed journalist feels like using today. Few years back it was even tied to Trump being elected, and as usual for the tone with things like this, terms troll and radical right. Troll in itself has been misused and misunderstood for a long time now, but one has to question where radical right comes into play. Considering there has been very little actual research and high amount of hot air puffing about the whole dead movement, some of the statements L.A. Time’s article are lacking in any sort of clear evidence and do come across as claims with no backing. If it serves a purpose, damned be nuance and considering other views. If you’re interested in a breakdown on how much inaccuracies L.A. Time’s article has, Lucien Maverick’s Den has a rather exhaustive response.

I would argue that we are too stuck in our views and ways. Provocation becomes so much easier when we are unwilling to entertain and consider an opposite, even if we would find them completely and utterly abominable. At first glance, so many of us are so dead set on a point and a view, and in a stance that I am right that we lose to ourselves. Tempers are lost and words are not as much chosen as they are flung. This distorts discussion, especially when strong personalities vehemently argue for their own grounds. I admit that I take too much pleasure intentionally provoking people and rile them up, as that more often than not shows a person’s true colours to some extent and what they may think of the subject, and to some extent, of yours truly. Often, I must sadly say, it is very belittling.

It seems we should never expect another to see our point of view, to which I would argue that we ourselves should aim for this. However, the competitive species we are, that’s often rather difficult and sometimes leads into whomever we are having discussion with to consider themselves to have won an argument or the like. Personalities like this are often hard to deal with, and again I have to admit that I often end up winging and trying to rile them up even more just for fun. This is mostly because if the person I am discussing with is unwilling to to entertain other views to any extent, I don’t personally see any value in having that particular discussion. This is not about changing minds, but to discuss a topic in itself. You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve been told off because my unwillingness to accommodate my discussion partner and seemingly change my mind. It’s hard to change mind on subjects you really don’t care.

For media, sensationalism makes sales. Call it clickbait or ragebait, the core idea is the same; have something people can rile up and have an emotional reaction to. The more you can cater and deliver a point of view that supports that audience’s built-in view, the easier it is to catch clicks and money. Of course, there are a lot of those who are true believers in their quests and simply seem to find this the best method for them to spread whatever truth they consider the highest. They do not claim to be the truth, they present the truth. Accept no alternatives. This can lead people who are easily influenced or live within certain social bubbles to simply take everything as gospel. This might seem like a jab, but universities that tend to cater to an agenda or limit freedom of speech largely act like this, and opposite discourse and views are trampled rather than considered.

Naturally there are matters we can’t exactly argue about. Water is wet, ice is cold. Kitchen knives should be sharp, music is meant to be listened to. Plants produce oxygen, Earth’s atmosphere is made of 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, 0.9% argon and 0.03% carbon dioxide with very minor percentages of other elements thrown in. Earth is not flat, and light’s speed is 299 792 458m per second. If sun were to turn off suddenly, we wouldn’t notice it in the next 8 minutes and 17 seconds. These are the sort of facts we can’t argue against, as they’re not in the field of opinions. Outside soft sciences, we can’t really argue against what is proven through examination and tests. Science, however, is self-correcting as long as further tests and trials are made in a rigorous manner. However, again we must consider that humans will always have presumptions, which we need to be aware of. It is only natural that we rely on our past experiences, even to the extent that we rely on our experience of not having presumptions and prejudices that we end up being presuming we don’t have prejudices, and then start calling people shitheads when a view has been challenged.

I should remind my readers that this blog is written with a perspective, more often than not. In a way, it is a thought experiment and practice for an outside thinking. Even when the two personae have merged to a large extent during these eight years, it still helps me to stop for a moment and consider other options. Sometimes this has lead people to say I undermine my own argument by delivering a countering argument, but that’s the whole point of it. We should considering more than one argument, because more often than not more than one argument in overall discussion. After all, it’s more probable that we’re always wrong and just think we’re right, because of our goddamn egos.

Rules for me, rules for you

Have you ever noticed a thing that happens sometimes, where people apply rules to someone else but never follow through them themselves? As if the rules that bind others do not concern themselves. You may see this while driving, people ignoring the rules and doing whatever they want while cursing someone doing the same thing or something else that break the rules. It’s no hard either, human mind being so easily bent to believe two or more opposite things to the point of mental breakdown. We’re natural beings like that in mind, we don’t have binary in our brains. Chromosomes, sure. This is why it isn’t hard to believe James L. Brooks came out few days ago that he doesn’t believe in any kind of book burning, but is burning his own book by removing the episode Stark Raving Dad from The Simpsons. Not just from syndication, it will not be present in any future re-release or digital service. It’ll be gone, poof, burned from history.

This coincides with the documentary Leaving Neverland from HBO, which once more covers sexual assault allegations made against the late Michael Jackson in 1993, who played a major voice role in the episode. At the time, the episode was a big deal. Nobody truly knew if it was Jackson or someone else, but this episode opened a whole new door for The Simpsons with guest voice actors, for better or worse. Usually for the worse. Hopefully this won’t lead into anything other similar actions, especially considering the role The King of Pop had on music and culture at large. He was an icon, an important one more ways than one, but this ain’t the blog for that.

The question is; Does Brooks have the right to burn a chapter from his book? Almost thirty years after the fact, legally yes. Culturally and ethically, no. The same question that followed Star Wars’ Special Editions should apply here. If we count television series like The Simpsons as a form of art, this is willful destruction of art, something that most would argue against. Except if its art portraying opposite political ideology or people, then there are a lot of people who would rather destroy art just to forget the past and repeat it in the future. At what point does art belongs to the audience, the culture at large? Nowadays it seems never, as big corporations and people like Brooks seems to considering things in terms of fame and money only. Then again, that’s what matters to them, who cares if one episode of a long running series is removed, right? It’ll still make money.

But if we’re really going follow Brook’s mindset, why just stop with Stark Raving Dad? Back in 1995 Kelsey Grammer was charged for sexual assault on a 15-years old girl, but the jury refused to indict him based on lacking evidence. Larry King was accused of groping Terry Richard’s. Dustin Hoffman has allegations on him for harassing a 17-years old intern. Aerosmith as a band probably can gather more stuff together than most visiting actors, seeing how Steven Tyler once had a 14-years old girlfriend, whom of he had guardianship over. Wade Boggs was accused of being a racist. Jose Canseco was accused of sexual assault in Las Vegas. Probably most of the sports stars visiting the show have some baggage. Not even the series creator Matt Groening has escaped some kind of mud, as he was sued for discrimination. In future, there will be more cases that allege something towards someone in the cast.

Does it matter that some of these are confirmed, some just allegations and some deemed untrue? Doesn’t matter if we go Brook’s rules. The case against Jackson was settled, and the agreement specifically stated that there was no wrongdoing. There was never enough solid evidence to charge Jackson, and the only person who had a word stopped cooperating with the police after the settlement. You can’t bribe people not to testify, so if he had been sitting in the stand based on the charges, he would’ve had to tell what he knew. According to the grand juries, none of the witnesses had seen enough proof to implicate Jackson on anything. Even in the further cases in 2003, he was found to be guiltless to all charges in 2005. However, despite him being freed of all charges, Jackson’s name was pulled through the mud, his career damaged, Sega stopped working with him (this affected production of Sonic the Hedgehog 3), franchise agreements were cancelled and the man never really recovered.

Is one of the best episodes of The Simpsons so little worth, that a documentary, a defaming one at that against a dead man, is enough to have it pulled from the show? If so, then for what reason? Political correctness? All in all, it seems because he feels convinced by the HBO documentary of Jackson’s guilt. That is his call. Documentaries are always with a perspective, usually that of the maker. Very rarely you see an objective documentary that makes balanced arguments on all sides. It’s easier and more profitable to make something sensational. Watching a documentary is like reading a news article in that the viewer needs to analyse what’s been show and in what way, what is not shown and why, how things are shot and what sort of manipulative elements are presented e.g. in background music selection and colour hues used.

But the deed is done. We’re going to lose one of the best animated episodes of television to date, saved only by previous releases. However, I did hear a familiar face musing that this might’ve been Brooks just having a good time to pull out the episode, that they wouldn’t need to pay the Jackson estate any further, but no reports of this has come out.

Maybe this would be time to ask the usual question if we are able, or if we should, separate art from the artist. After all, the content itself is not the creator. Can we diminish the value of pieces of art and products if their creator, any of them, suddenly is found to have done something objectionable? Roman Polanski might be the best known case, where court found him guilty of sexual child abuse. Perhaps this is one of those times where we find ourselves making use of that human duality, allotting rule breaks for others while expecting rest to follow them perfectly.

It’s a shame, that’s all I can personally say. Such a waste.

Selling with sex

So Dead or Alive 6 got released with some limited fanfare, and it hasn’t really made an impact. For all the PR lip service it made for it and its direction to become more serious in visual tone was just that. It is getting sixes and sevens out of ten, which doesn’t really mean much nowadays seeing most games get sixes or sevens. Reviews range from utterly baffling (Eurogamer wants to make sure there’s some sort of agenda in there by name-dropping the Trumps) to somewhat competent but failing due to having an idea that isn’t exactly true (like Destructoid‘s review, where the reviewer thinks we’re living the most experimental era of fighting games.) Most Western reviews of course will tote the whole thing about sex appeal. While that is certainly an element of the series, there’s significant lack of mentioning the chiseled bodies and female-fantasy level physiques to direction or another at offer. The old saying Sex sells hasn’t ever been as true as people might make it, but in this case it is true. All these people are making their money on speaking about sex. Like that Eurogamer writer, who apparently thinks having a nude model for Resident Evil 2 remake’s Mr. X would be the best thing since corn. They may not realise it themselves, but whenever these sources make a hullabaloo about skimpy outfits or sexualised content to any direction, they’re selling their content with a sexual boost. They’re no better, or worse, than the people they may criticise.

Does this make me hypocritical, seeing I talk about sexualised content at a rather decent rate? I’m not selling you anything, and the stance on the blog has always been pro-sex for wherever applicable and designed into the product.

The whole thing about Dead or Alive and its sex appeal is more or less old news. It warrants no real criticism at this point anymore. Everyone and their mothers have effectively covered it, but its the easiest topic to discuss. It is also always topical, as different sections if different cultures have completely different ideas and standpoints where respective culture, worldwide or local, should stand in terms of body representation and sexualised content. None of them are inherently negative or positive, though all sides might argue otherwise. Then again, humanity has always admired the shape of a body in sculptures, paintings, songs and writing, almost mirroring their respective eras. Sometimes the bodies are idolised, sometimes they’re represented in a more natural state. The 3D models in Dead or Alive, or in any game that in any way tries to achieve some sort of elevation of a human shape, be it via clothes or body shape, is closer to statues of old representing the same core idea. Of course, sexualising men and women is largely different in nature. The whole procreation and nature of women as the birthing side in the two sexes of mankind serves a strong drive, whereas women value athletic bodies and social positioning. The small stubble, somewhat pronounced square chin, slo-mo motions of the camera and actors you always see in certain commercials are to hit this spot with the women in the audience. These too are tied to eon old genes, but everyone has their quirks, and some deviations are more common than others. Like the people who’d rather fuck cars.

While the whole discussion whether or not certain Western Christian traditions are the reason why parts of the world has become rather prudish when it comes to the nudity and sex business, there is a point there. Excess use and availability of something does devalue the matter, like what would happen to money if it was shared around to everyone willy nilly. The value of money would plummet, and maybe in certain ways the access to perfectly shaped bodies, fictional or not, take away something from the value of having a perfectly shaped body here and there. Unhealthy living is an issue though, and being a fatass is not only detrimental to oneself and making a dent to the value, but also promotes rising costs and risks to the society. I’ve discussed to death how more and more items like beds and chairs need to be designed to take account the increasing weight and body mass people have in Western nations, especially in the US. Crematoriums catching fire have become an issue as well, as cremating overly obese bodies raises the risk of starting a grease fire, like what happened in Ohio few years back. There’s no value in increasing costs like this. In this sense, promoting the idolised bodies to strive for could be seen as a very positive thing. After all, as long as go for it, it doesn’t really matter if we achieve a perfect body. Some people just can’t due to genes, but we shouldn’t let genes to decide such a thing. In the end, our bodies is the best thing we can put money into and take care of, as my shoulder currently reminds me of.

Dead or Alive or any other IP with human body idolised, but not necessarily sexualised, will always get scrutiny. It’s a never-ending issue, which seems to change hands from time to time. Before the current climate of progressive stack and political movements driving this whole agenda to censor sexual content from pretty much everything, it was the puritanical and zealous Christians. I wonder when it’ll exchange hands to some other group and for what reason. It’s an eternal hot topic that each generation will have to deal with their own way. Make no mistake, sex does sell, but only when it has been applied properly. After all, it makes money, and in an era where clickbaiting and outrage culture produces positive financial results, it’s an extremely easy subject to keep tackling over and over again. It’s a cycle that a lot of these sources that seem to be mad about how culture portrays something would lose a significant element from their usual roll. Then again, there are people who can’t be pleased to any extent, so you shouldn’t even stoop down to try.

Music of the Month; Shubi-Beam Explosion

I recently managed to fuck up shoulder and neck muscles, preventing me to do a lot stuff I usually do. Work has been bit of a hell because of this, and sitting in front of a computer and typing something down just makes it worse. I’ll probably have to skip next week’s posts because of this, I don’t want this to get worse. This is a reminder for all of you that you should remember to stretch and warm up your muscles more often, especially if your work is in the office or requires heavy lifting or unusual working positions.

The music’s the for the month overall is PC-Engine. That’d be the console that became Turbografx-16 in the West. I recently obtained a PC-Engine Duo-R, modified with a region switch and RGB output. The seller pitched an Everdrive to the mix as well, which allows ROM files to be put on a SD Card. While I just discussed the nature of all the games on a single card, I’ve already made preparations and decisions on this. Just like with the Everdrive N8, which I have an old review up, the Everdrive won’t be an issue when it comes to collecting. It’ll just help me to keep the Hu-Cards in better condition. I just need to find some kind of solution to house the loose cards, either by creating a separate box for them, or custom make some sort of sleeve for a binder. Like trading cards.

While I’m still rooting for the previously planned stuff, that might have to take backseat until my shoulder’s in proper condition. This also means I’d rather do something easier and quick that doesn’t require me to sit in front of the computer and doing any graphical editing or whatnot.  However, doing stuff like reviewing the PC-E’s Avenue 3 controller I got with it should be doable, as most of the stuff is done away from the computer. Fiddling with the controller to take photos of the insides and seeing what makes it tick, all that relaxing stuff. I’d also like to take a look at the library of games PC-E had to offer, mostly some of the more famous titles. Well, I say famous but in reality I mean titles that have solidified themselves into the sub-cultural background of the console. Like how NES had Mega Man, the PC-E had Kaizou Choujin Shubibinman. Everybody knows about the shooting games, but there is a healthy amount of interesting titles of varied quality that more or less represent the best the console has to offer. Whether or not that is on the same level as its competitors of the time is another thing altogether, but seeing it came in third place in the sales race against Nintendo and Sega, you can probably guess how the quality overall was.

 

For now, enjoy the music. I need to slap some Voltaren on my shoulder and take some pain killers.