[NEWSARAMA] RADIX vs. MIT & THE ARMY

Check out this article from Newsarama!

Copyright issues are a real bitch, aren’t they?


Take this recent semi-scandal between comic book artists Ben & Ray Lai and MIT. The Lai brothers put out a comic through Image a while ago called “Radix,” starring a hot chick in battle armor with mystical powers. Later on, they were surprised when an image that was an obvious swipe of their cover for issue #1 was all over the news as a conceptualization for a real-world, $50 million “Soldier of the Future” contract that MIT successfully won with the US Army.


The Lais were understandably upset to see that their artwork was used without their permission, and immediately issued a cease and desist to MIT to have them take the image down from their project website


MIT obliged, saying they had no idea the artist they commissioned had swiped the images, but the Lais aren’t satisfied. They claim that the very existence of this image calls into question their ownership of the armor design, which has hurt their chances to cash in on the Hollywood buying frenzy of comic book properties that kicked off when the Spider-Man movie turned out to be such a big hit.


But it’s also clear that there is some bitterness involved, considering that their art was used as part of a $50 million winning proposal, and they won’t be seeing any of that cash.
So the Lais are currently speaking with their lawyers… exploring their “options”…


What a mess!


First off, the proposal was in the area of 100 pages long. One would hope that the decision makers at the Army didn’t just look at the drawing and rubber-stamp their approval right away. What, did the competition all use stick figures? For all we know, the competition wrote Luis Royo a fat check to paint a mural of their super soldiers.


Second, it’s not like the armor design is the most original one ever made. It has basically the same lines as a typical superhero outfit, only it’s bulkier and made of metal rather than spandex. This is exactly the kind of design I used to crank out every day when I was a kid. I’m not saying there is nothing unique to Radix (since I’ve never read it) but if there is, it’s definitely not the armor design. The same goes for the specific pose and detail of the artwork. It’s nothing you don’t see every day on the stands.


Third, there is no doubt who owns the armor design, since neither MIT nor the Army is contesting the allegation that the art was swiped (any more). So if Hollywood isn’t pounding down the Lais’ door now, it’s because they’ve found some other hot chick in battle armor to make a movie about.


Fourth, it was an honest mistake (at least for those at the top). One of the faculty members commissioned his daughter to do the drawing based on his description, and she’s the one who used Photoshop to composite scans from Radix #1 into the final art. Before the bid was won, the art was only seen by a handful of people. It wasn’t until the news broke that anybody saw it, and it wasn’t until they got the “cease and desist” that anybody even knew there was an infringement, and at that point they stopped using the image (at least at MIT).


So, all that said, it was still plagiarism. Would this be treated the same if the bid had been lost and only those involved in the bidding process had ever seen it? The big money and the news blitz cloud the issue, but at its core it was still one artist using the work of another artist and putting her own name on it.


If this were the People’s Court, I would probably have the artist give her commission to the Lais and call it a day.


Here’s an interview transcript from CNN with one the Lai brothers.

RANT: The iMac-Like PC (FAT CHANCE!)

(Thanks, kuch, for the link to this NYT article…)


I’m not sure what all of the confusion is about concerning the absence of a viable all-in-one Win32 system. There is a strong philosophical disconnect between Macintosh and PC thinking when it comes to prioritizing aesthetics versus economy for a desktop computer system.


PCs are there to “get the job done” in the fastest, most cobbled-together way possible. They’re not fun to use. Nobody complains that they’re not fun to use. Computers aren’t supposed to be fun… they’re for work, fool! If anybody does complain, they find themselves the target of ridicule.


People who buy Macs know what they’re putting their money into. I’m not sure PC manufacturers know just what that is. They always try to copy some surface aspect and then find it to be a total flop. PC all-in-one designs make the assumption that the user just wants a small case that fits the rough technical specs of an iMac, while Apple puts tons of resources into designing a machine that looks good sitting on the desk.


I’m not sure PC manufacturers even have the option of pulling off the same aesthetic appeal within the current environment. For one, as long as they rely on Windows as the user interface, it doesn’t really matter how pretty the box is, the thing is going to be a kludgey mess to use. But there are other reasons.


Mac users are accustomed to Apple’s monopoly over Macintosh hardware, and they’re used to getting no respect from hardware vendors when it comes to device drivers. They know they can’t go to the store and grab just any commodity part, plug it in, and have everything work. So buying an all-in-one Macintosh system is not much different from buying one of their towers if you think in terms of building out a Frankenstein box.


At least, it’s not as much of a difference as all-in-one means to the PC world. All-in-one PCs are almost as expensive as Macintosh all-in-ones, and they’re far uglier. You don’t get the usual PC advantage of being able to extend the life of the machine indefinitely by swapping in new parts over time. You’re stuck with a box that can’t be upgraded, in a market where constant innovation guarantees that your machine will become obsolete in no time.


In reality, most home users probably don’t upgrade their PCs often, or maybe ever. But they do seem to get old faster because the hardcore gamers and office users keep pushing the envelope, and applications continue to be written with the expectations that more and more resources will be available to them.


It’s a funny point to make, but I think innovation for its own sake has this side effect. Mac users can keep their computers longer basically because Apple’s absolute control over the architecture stifles innovation and keeps the app writers from getting greedy with system resources. So again, people keep their Macs longer and get more back on their investment before pawning that iMac off to a third cousin and getting a new one.


I’m not trying to be a Mac bigot here. Both systems have their advantages, but I can totally see why all-in-one PC systems just don’t cut it. It’s just opposite of what the PC architecture is all about. We don’t even call them “IBMs” any more! The PC philosophy just can’t be frozen in a little box and expected to stay put like a Mac can.

SAM & MAX TO HIT THE ROAD (AND OTHERS) IN LONG AWAITED CLASSIC ADVENTURE SEQUEL FROM LUCASARTS

HFS! Check out this press release from LucasArts!


Sam & Max is one of my favorite video games of all time, and I’ve always been partial to the LucasArts adventure games (well, the non-Star Wars ones, anyway). There’s also a sequel to “Full Throttle” on its way. It’s about time!


I’ve tried all kinds of adventure games, but those old LucasArts games were the only ones I ever felt compelled to play all the way through. I dig their philosophy of designing games that can never be made unwinnable, no matter how lame the player (me) is. It’s less realistic, but in the interest of making a game that is fun rather than frustrating to play, I think it was a good call.


I just hope those two sequels will run on my Win32 laptop, because they don’t seem to be planning any Mac versions. No, I’m not bitching, just stating the obvious! My Mac rocks without any crummy games! Full Throttle 2 is coming out on the consoles too, so chances are that includes a version for my GameCube.


What am I thinking! I don’t have time to play these life sucking games! I can dream, though…

IMAGE OF THE DAY: IMAGE OF THE DAY: TOOTHED TOWER OF TERROR

CLICK TO SEE WHAT HAS OL’ GUTHRIE HERE SO SPOOKED! (82k)


This was a failed experiment from a few nights ago that I attempted to resuscitate tonight. This is one of those cases where I wanted to draw something fun and quick, but the actual execution took longer than the idea was probably worth. It also served as a reminder of just how poorly noisy line art compresses in either GIF or JPEG! 82K for 400×400 black and white!? Highway robbery!


But no matter what, you just gotta love that cowboy! Any similarities between the crowd and any living persons is completely unintentional and I blame the Wacom, and that’s the story I’m sticking to.

IMAGE OF THE DAY: WEEP DAY

CLICK FOR GRATUITOUS ANGST! (53k)


Tonight, in an effort to acheive some sort of arty “emotional range,” I set out to draw the weepiest thing I could think of, so here we are. This guy is obviously upset about something. Probably found a crease in his copy of Sandman #1 or can’t find his Floodland CD.


I used a different “technique” than I’ve been using up till now, so it’s even more rough than usual. I didn’t use any linework, and just splattered a bunch of “paint” around to get the shapes and details. It turned out okay for the subject matter.


I’m finding it hard to maintain my required minimum angst level these days, but I will be strong. Weepiness is a core element of my being and I will never surrender! NEVER!

More EFF Madness

Jamie Zawinski, proprietor of the DNA Lounge (I think) wrote a cool summary of last week’s “Wil Wheaton vs. Barney” event. Those who weren’t there missed out BIG TIME!


It was awesome to see the part Pat played in all of this. I particularly appreciate this shot of the bastard handing out cease-and-desist orders to the crowd. I get those all the time, but it doesn’t stop me from giving him shit.

Here’s Pat’s entry on the event.

Why Emulate SCSI?

(From the trying-to-be-clever department)


A friend of mine was asking why so many interfaces are mapped to SCSI in the Linux world. Some people make some bogus argument that it acts as a handy abstraction layer that improves code reusability and reduces errors and blah blah blah.


Do not be fooled! This is just another example of software engineers overwhelming the public with heavy buzzwords in an attempt to distract them from the true goal, which is to prevent the obsolescence of one of the coolest acronyms the tech industry has ever produced. And make no mistake, cool acronyms are the primary product of the software engineering industry, and they always have been.


SCSI is one of the last great acronyms. It’s kind of edgy, almost profane, and you can actually pronounce it. Just say it… “SCSI”… it just rolls off the tongue. Doesn’t that feel good?


Now try sounding out “USB,”, “IDE” or “IEEE 1394″. They don’t have the same ring to them, do they? And while we’re at it, as Py once pointed out to me, why use the 9-syllable “WWW” in speech as an abreviation for the 3-syllable “World Wide Web”?


Acronyms are a dying art.


We need to hold onto SCSI for as long as we can. If I can’t say “SCSI” at least once a week, I don’t want to be a programmer any more! Luckily, I’m not alone. The kernel hackers are doing everything they can to keep it in use. True SCSI devices can die out for all we care. Even if it means we’ll have SCSI sound, SCSI keyboards, SCSI mice, SCSI networking, and SCSI power switches, emulation will preserve SCSI forever!

GOOD POLITICAL CARTOONS

Ted Rall: One Year Later, America’s Leaders Take Stock

Recommended Editorial Cartoon reading from Ted Rall.


I also recommend “To Afghanistan and Back” by Rall. It’s not going to answer any of your questions about the conflict, but it does a good job of showing what it’s like to be a wartime journalist in the third-world, which I found interesting on its own.


Ted Rall is so bitter, so full of hatred and angst that I just can’t help loving the guy’s work. I’ve been following him for years, but he’s really hit his stride reporting on the post-9-11 political scene. I’m glad we have guys like him getting all bent out of shape about this stuff. It makes me feel less alone (but not necessarily less powerless to stop what’s going on).


The latest Tom The Dancing Bug rocks as well. Go read it!

SWITCH THIS, SUCKAZ!

All right, I did it! I’ve been saving up, and building up the guts to do it, and now the deed is done!


No, I didn’t get the Yakuza-style tattoo of Genma Saotome on my back. That will have to wait.


I am now a Mac owner, thanks to my new Dual 867 MHz G4 tower and 17″ Studio Display. Pat already outed me, so this is no big surprise. You can go to Apple.com and get a good idea just how much money I spent on this stuff!


So far, I’m very happy with it. The display KICKS ASS! and although I prefer the previous model’s case design, the new G4 tower is quite a nice-looking and zippy little box.


The trip to the Apple Store in Palo Alto was filled with bad omens, however. I missed two offramps and then found a street fair blocking Univeristy Avenue when I got there, so I had to park several blocks away amid heavy traffic. Then, after I made my purchases and went to get my car I got lost again trying to find my way back to the store! Could there be some greater force warning me that this was the wrong decision? Or have the subliminal messages Windows XP has been beaming into my eyes through the LCD of my laptop for the last year successfully hijacked the navigation centers of my brain? Will the FUD never end?

EFF ROUNDUP

Well, just got back from the Wil Wheaton vs. Barney fundraiser for the EFF, and of course, it rocked.


One thing that I almost forgot about the DNA Lounge was its net access, and Pat and Beej dutifully plugged my image of the day to a bunch of people, not the least of whom was Wil Wheaton himself. He said he liked it and wanted to post it to his blog, which was a pretty awesome outcome for what was just my lame drawing of the day… I was more afraid that he might see it than hopeful. I mean, how many charicatures of himself has the guy seen in his life?


The brawl itself was superb. Wil Wheaton‘s speech was pretty powerful, and the way he finished Barney off with the lightsaber at the end gives me a newfound level of respect for the guy. Barney had it coming to him after that dirty hug bait-and-switch move he tried eary in the match.


Pat makes a surprisingly good weasley lawyer. Okay, so it wasn’t such a huge surprise! He hung out at the ropes waving his arms around angrily, and then ran into the ring with a stack of “cease and desist” notices to hand out to the crowd. There was a beautiful moment where he just tossed the rest of them in the air, and at that point, Wil Wheaton in berzerker mode chased him out of the ring with these letters still raining down. It was the purest form of performance art I had ever seen!


Overall it was a great night for me. I had those random moments of depression I always get a clubs, where I feel really isolated and sink deep into myself, though. And I have no idea how anybody ever hooks up at these places. It’s a complete mystery I may never unravel.


One thing is certain. The EFF knows how to throw a good party.