Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Internet Explorer for Windows

US-CERT: Beware of IE:
The U.S. government's Computer Emergency Readiness Team is warning Web surfers to stop using Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser.

Friday, June 25, 2004

American Bible Society's Comic Book (non)Efforts

Metron Press Pulls Up Stakes?: "It's very easy for religious organizations and churches alike to criticize and complain about how society is running amok and is out of control. But when it comes time to put your money where your gripes are, indifference and non-commitment are the end result. ABS worried how they would be perceived in the religious community and what effect it would have on their donor base. When they saw what it would take to reach this market, and how it would ruffle the feathers of some in the religious community, it was better to play it safe and not serve the secular market and save face in their own community."

Michael and Them: Moore Foes Hold Fest

Michael and Them: Moore Foes Hold Fest: "Conservatives complain about institutional bias in Hollywood. They need to stop whining and get out there and produce."

My thoughts exactly. Rather than complaining about "Fahrenheit 9/11" and the liberal bias of Hollywood, go make your own movie that espouses your own viewpoint. Considering the unprecedented amount of funds raised for President Bush's re-election campaign, there's obviously enough money out there.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Even Better Than The Real Thing?

This is the first U2 tribute band I've seen and I was impressed. Not only did they sound quite good, but they played the extended concert versions of most of the songs they played. 'Bonalmost' even sounded like the real thing during the banter in between songs. Although I doubt the real Bono has ever passed out a clipboard for folks to write their e-mail addresses on.

The songs they played in their first set were:
I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
New Year's Day
Angel of Harlem
The Unforgettable Fire
Sunday Bloody Sunday
Bullet The Blue Sky
Where The Streets Have No Name
When Love Comes To Town
With Or Without You

They'll be playing a number of shows in the Bay Area this summer, so maybe I'll catch their '90s set.

Zoo Station: The Complete U2 Experience

Celine Dion's double

I've been published in The (Stockton) Record! OK, so it was just a letter to the editor in response to another letter. But the important questions of our time deserve answering:

Dion's double or double vision?

My Printed Response

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Why DRM systems don't work

Cory Doctorow: Microsoft Research DRM talk

This talk was originally given to Microsoft's Research Group and other interested parties from within the company at their Redmond offices on June 17, 2004.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Free Comic Book Day is when participating comic book shops around the world give away comic books absolutely free to anyone who comes into their stores (no purchase is necessary!). This year it will take place July 3, the Saturday after "Spider-Man 2" premieres. Some of this year's giveaways include: Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures, Teen Titans Go!, the Image Comics Summer Special, and an IDW Sampler featuring 24, CSI, The Shield, and 30 Days of Night.

Iraq, Al Qaeda, and what constitutes a 'relationship'

The Christian Science Monitor has a pretty good article asking the question: "What exactly qualifies as a relationship in the early 21st century? Is it chatter that doesn't lead to anything, or something more?" Or does it depend on what the definition of 'is' is?

Iraq, Al Qaeda, and what constitutes a 'relationship'

Friday, June 18, 2004

Proto A Go Go

If you read my blog, but don't visit my brother's Web site, it's probably news to you that his newest album, "Proto A Go Go," is now available for purchase at Ranch Records in Salem for only $6. I've written a semi-detailed review of it on his message boards.

10 Notable Black Superheroes

This is a sidebar I wrote to complement the Burning Dark story:

Black Panther
First Appearance
: Fantastic Four #52 (1966, Marvel Comics)
One of the first mainstream Black heroes to be portrayed in a positive light, the Black Panther is T'Challa, the dignified king of the imaginary, technologically advanced, African nation of Wakanda. The character came under fire by some for not being radical enough. He received his own series in 1977 and gained the spotlight more recently in a series written by Christopher Priest (whose comments about Firestorm artist ChrisCross can be seen in Burning Dark).

Wesley Snipes has lobbied studios for years to get a Black Panther movie made.

Luke Cage
First Appearance
: Luke Cage, Hero for Hire #1 (1972, Marvel Comics)
Luke Cage was the first Marvel comic to take its title exclusively from a Black character. A former gang member, Cage is framed for a crime he did not commit. In prison he volunteers for a medical experiment that ends up giving him incredible strength; he then escapes and becomes a mercenary "hero for hire" under the moniker of Power Man. A sign of the times, he sported an Afro and dressed in open-chested threads with a butterfly collar.

First Appearance
: Tomb of Dracula #10 (1973, Marvel Comics)
Blade's mother was pregnant when she was bit by a vampire and died giving birth to him. Blade gained the strength of vampires and immunity to their bites, making him their most feared enemy. Vowing to avenge the death of his mother, he became the leader of a small group of vampire hunters.

The 1998 film "Blade" and its 2002 sequel, both starring Wesley Snipes as the title character, earned more than $150 million. A third film, "Blade: Trinity," will hit theaters this December.

First Appearance
: Giant Size X-Men #1 (1975, Marvel Comics)
Storm is one of the rare Black female superheroes and undoubtedly the most well-known. Born Ororo Munroe in New York, her family moved to Africa when she was only 6 months old. Her parents died when a plane crashed into her home and she still suffers from claustrophobia due to the incident. Her mutant power - the ability to control the weather - garnered the attention of Professior Xavier, who convinced her to join the X-Men, of which she is the only Black female member.

Storm was portrayed by Halle Berry in the 2000 film "X-Men" and its 2003 sequel, "X2: X-Men United."

Black Lightning
First Appearance
: Black Lightning #1 (1977, DC Comics)
Black Lightning was DC's first Black superhero. Jefferson Pierce, a famed Olympic athlete, returns to his old high school to teach and decides to end the school's drug problems. His powers, including an electro-shield that can repel bullets, come from his costume's belt. The character was revived in 1995 for a 20-issue run.

Green Lantern John Stewart
First Appearance
: Green Lantern #87 (1977, DC Comics)
John Stewart was selected to act as alternate Green Lantern should Hal Jordan become incapacitated. Idealistic, John championed the oppressed, and was eventually given full status in the Green Lantern Corps. Although his overconfidence resulted in the destruction of a planet, he was later reinstated.

John can be seen as the Green Lantern in the "Justice League" animated series on the Cartoon Network.

First Appearance
: New Teen Titans #1 (1980, DC Comics)
Victor Stone was a child genius whose scientist father forced him to constantly study. Finding solace in sports, Victor excelled in boxing, track and basketball. He became Cyborg when half of his face and body were severely damaged in an attack at his father's lab. His father used his inventions to save his son's life.

Cyborg can currently be seen in the "Teen Titans" animated series on the Cartoon Network and on the Kids' WB lineup.

First Appearance
: Spawn #1 (1992, Image Comics)
Al Simmons was a former CIA agent who was killed during a covert operation. He made a deal with the devil to return to life to be with his wife Wanda and their daughter. But the devil sent him back to Earth years later - after his wife has remarried his best friend - as a Hellspawn. He has tremendous powers, but also a hideously scarred appearance.

One of the best-selling comics of all time, Spawn has been an incredible financial success for its author, Todd McFarlane, who named the character after his real-life friend, Al Simmons. In addition to the multiple comic book series, Spawn has had an animated series on HBO, a 1997 feature film, numerous toys and a Playstation video game.

First Appearance
: Superman, Man of Steel #22 (1993, DC Comics)
Scientist John Henry Irons invented technology that found its way into lethal street-gang weapons. Distraught by the destruction his work had caused, he created an armored flying suit to fight crime. Inspired by Superman, who had recently died, he wore a metal S-shield. After Superman returned, he continued to fight crime as Steel, but no longer wore the crest.

The character was the basis for the 1997 feature film starring Shaquille O'Neal.

First Appearance
: Static #1 (1993, Milestone Media)
Virgil Hawkins is an average teenager, struggling with the experience of high school. After being beaten up by bullies, he decides to buy a gun. Reconsidering his decision, he is later given powers of static electricity in a freak occurrence.

Although his comic book was canceled years ago, along with the other Milestone Media titles, he is now the star of the "Static Shock" animated series on the Kids' WB lineup.

Burning Dark

The following is a story I pitched to the Sacramento Observer and I finally got around to finishing it. In case it doesn't see print there, here it is:

DC Comics ignites 'Firestorm' of controversy by reintroducing popular hero as Black teen

Fans of the comic book character Firestorm were excited when DC Comics announced the superhero would once again be starring in his own series. But that excitement turned to concern and outright anger when they learned the character they remembered – White high school student Ronnie Raymond – would be supplanted by a previously unknown Black teenager.

Dan Didio, DC's editorial vice president, says the impetus for a new Firestorm series was based on the character's ongoing popularity, unique powers and the urge to draw in younger readers.

"We've always believed Firestorm should have his own series again, but we wanted to do a new take. We wanted to take the character and make him interesting to a younger audience," Dido said. "In examining the character, we came to the conclusion that this would be an excellent opportunity to introduce a strong African American character into DC's pantheon using an existing franchise."

The character first debuted in the late 1970s as high school student Ron Raymond, who was duped into protesting the opening of a nuclear power plant. The protesters turned out to be eco-terrorists who attempted to blow up the plant. During the incident, Ron and Dr. Martin Stein, one of the plant’s designers, were bathed in radiation. The should-have-been-deadly experience instead granted superpowers and merged the two characters into one: Firestorm, The Nuclear Man.

The new hero could fly, had a level of invulnerability, could shoot energy blasts from his hands, and transmute materials on a nuclear level. With a wave of his hand, bullets could turn into flowers.

Also, the top of his head was a pot of fire, and his costume featured puffy sleeves that would be at home during Carnival in Rio.

Although the character’s original series lasted only six months, a second series in the mid-’80s ran for 100 issues, thanks in part to his recurring appearances in the various DC-based Saturday morning cartoons, such as “Superfriends.”

The new Firestorm is African American Jason Rusch, an abused, downtrodden 17-year-old who agrees to do a "little job" for a local criminal - only to become mysteriously infused with the power of Firestorm.

"The fact that he's African American is an important part, but we really want to play to the fact that it's a young lead, it's a contemporary story," Didio added.

According to Didio, series writer Dan Jolley came up with the Rusch character with series editor Peter Tomasi. Both felt the DC universe needed more diversity in regards to its cast of characters and the idea piqued the interest of veteran African American comics artist ChrisCross, who Didio says latched onto the character.

“I waffled a bit when I was first asked to do the project,” Cross said. “But after reading the first script I was hooked. It definitely made me want to draw it.”

“Jason Rusch’s personality brings more realism to the character of Firestorm. We also pay a lot of attention to his ethnicity, which can be very important to the motivation of the character,” Cross said, also noting that Rusch “talks like a real kid. His speech pattern doesn’t sound like bad hip hop slang or ebonics.”

Cross signed on as the book's lead artist and redesigned the costume.

“While his ability to transmute objects always fascinated me and attracted me to the character, I didn’t love his appearance. He looked more like a flamenco dancer that plays the maracas and salsa music than a superhero,” Cross said.

But before a single issue was released, fan reaction on the company’s online message boards was largely negative. Jolley thinks the response has less to do with race than it does with nostalgia.

"The original Firestorm had, and still has, a very solid, dedicated, loyal following, and — as they’ve expressed to me very clearly — they’re not happy that the character they grew up with isn’t the star of the new series," Jolley said. "I think it’s a pretty natural human reaction; people grow comfortable with something, and they don’t want it to change. They don’t even want to hear about the possibility of it changing.

"But, y’know, at the same time, I’m very, very proud of the new series, and I think it’s going to find its own audience. If some of the original series’ fans are among the new readership, that’ll be even better."

One aspect of the book that hasn't drawn criticism is Cross' art, which has been praised by even those critical of the character’s direction.

At San Francisco's Wondercon in May, Jeph Loeb, writer of DC’s top-selling Superman/Batman series, who had seen the comic before it was released, said Cross' work on the title was impressive and that the artist "decided this book will make him a star."

That elevation in status would likely be a welcome one for African American comic book writer Christopher Priest, who has worked with Cross and called him "one of the most inspired and gifted artists I know" and "one of the greatest living comic book storytellers working today."

"Cross has an unparalleled instinct for dramatic storytelling, one that is wholly underappreciated by the major companies," said Priest, who recently wrote a Black Panther series for Marvel Comics (See 10 Notable Black Superheroes) and has been critical of the industry’s treatment of both its Black characters and talent.

"Being an enormously tall Black man with big fists and a deep voice doesn't help Cross much in this, a business dominated by short, pudgy white guys who never dated much in high school," Priest said.

Jolley and Cross will continue as the regular creative team on the series, detailing Rusch's ensuing struggle to control his new powers and cope with the new life they offer him on a monthly basis.

The "Eye Contact" story arc introduces the new incarnation of Firestorm during the first three issues, which shipped in May, June and July to comic book retailers nationwide.

Now that the book is available, Didio said the feedback has been mostly positive, especially from stores in urban cities where a lot of Black readers have embraced the book.

"We're pretty proud of this book," Didio added. "We're very happy with what we're putting on the shelf.”

Cross said, “I hope that everyone has fun with the book and looks at the comic for what it is and not for what it used to be.”

The comic book store nearest you can be found by calling the toll-free Comic Shop Locator Service at 1-888-COMIC-BOOK (266-4226) or visiting

Sunday, June 06, 2004

e-Column #96

Google suffers unjust criticism for free e-mail service: "Most e-mail providers offer roughly 10 megabytes of storage space. So when Google announced on April 1 that it would launch a free e-mail service that provided 1,000 megabytes of storage, some thought it was a practical joke. And some politicians and privacy advocates still wish it was."

Update: I was originally not aware that the published version of the column was missing the last few paragraphs. Here they are:

You can read more about Google's response to privacy concerns at Although Gmail has not officially launched, you can use it in its beta form at

Of course, if you prefer giant, flashing, slow-loading, graphic advertisements and like to have all your e-mail messages stamped at the bottom with ads for Yahoo or MSN, you're free to stick with those services.

And let's all hope Sen. Figueroa didn't give the telephone companies any ideas.

Friday, June 04, 2004

macCompanion June 2004

Here are links to my software reviews for the June 2004 issue of macCompanion:

Data Recycler X 1.2
Data Rescue X 10.4.1

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Microsoft gains double-clicking patent: "Microsoft has successfully patented using short, long or double clicks to launch different applications on 'limited resource computing devices' - presumably PDAs and mobile phones."

Do we really need any more examples of how broken the U.S. Patent Office is? Will AT&T be granted a patent for the 'redial' button of a telephone?

Moving picture ads turn Japan's train tunnels into advertising gold: " A new advertising medium that turns subway tunnel walls into colourful motion picture commercials as trains pass debuts this week in the Japanese capital, capitalizing on one of its most plentiful assets -- miles of subway routes."