May 2008 Archives

The Browser as Art Gallery

Based on a post found on the blog MAKE, I decided to try out the Firefox extension Ad-Art, which works in conjunction with another Firefox extension I use, Adblock Plus.

I often help my less technically inclined friends and family set up and maintain their computers. I love to tinker and tweak and add new things to my own computer, but when I set up a computer for someone else, I usually follow the maxim "less is more." I'm happy to have four or five different browsers on my machine, but I understand that most people only want one.

Still, I always wind up installing Firefox with the Adblock Plus extension. Because in addition to blocking advertisements, Adblock Plus solves common computer problems like slow load times on Flash-heavy web pages.

Adblock Plus is very flexible. I usually choose the option to collapse ad space, which means text and images flow into the space where an ad would be shown. The result is usually seamless--the page looks like the ads were never there to begin with. Alternative settings include replacing ads with a blank box or a box that reads "Ad."

Ad-Art replaces ads on web pageThe Ad-Art extension offers users another possibility: replacing ads with a selection of curated art works. Anyone can sign up to curate an Ad-Art exhibit, and artists are welcome to submit their own work for display. The project is free and open source.

To use the Ad-Art extension, I had to disable the option in Adblock Plus to collapse ad space. Then I began to see images from the current Ad-Art exhibit, Hiroshige’s One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, curated by Joan Cummins of the Brooklyn Museum. I found it very relaxing to encounter the images sprinkled across the page. I've included a screenshot, above, showing how the extension looks on the web site Gizmodo.

I liked Ad-Art even better on the GameSpot web site, which has one of those annoying full-page interstitial ads that pause for about 30 seconds. But with Ad-Art enabled, Hiroshige's work appeared alone on the page in place of the ad, framed by a dramatic black background, and lingered there restfully before the page I sought appeared.

Batman handcuffsAlthough she does not speak Yiddish, the Cute Little Red-Headed Girlfriend knows quite a few Yiddish words and phrases. If I ask her to speak Yiddish, I get nothing. Then, when I least expect it, she'll pop out a new phrase or word I've never heard before.

Watching TV with the Girlfriend often presents an opportunity for me to learn the nuances of Yiddish word meaning and usage. Because the Girlfriend always becomes very irate when Yiddish words are used incorrectly on television, which apparently is often. She will rail at the television set, "Such a person is not a putz! I would never call such a person a putz!" Then she will explain to me what the correct term for such a person would be.

One of the Yiddish sayings the Girlfriend kicks around quite a bit translates to "for every pot, there's a lid." It basically means that for every desire out there in the world, one can find a corresponding person or object that meets that desire. You can say it approvingly or with a wondering "who knew?" type of meaning.

Which brings me to the JLA Trophy Room Batman Bat-cuffs Replica, which I originally noticed on Geek Alerts. You may wish to note that if purchased, there's no reason for this replica to hang unused in a Trophy Room, for as the description makes clear, these are "life-sized, fully functioning Bat-Cuffs – the same size as regulation police handcuffs!"

Batpervs, may I present: your lid.

Happily Ever After

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The Girlfriend and I watched the film Saving Face on DVD this past weekend. We were looking forward to seeing it based on a review on AfterEllen.com, but we were pleasantly surprised by how much the movie exceeded our expectations.

Saving Face is billed as a romantic comedy, a genre that tends to provoke a gag response in me. The Hollywood version of the genre seems too self-celebratory, and all too often there are weddings--though perhaps that's a redundant criticism. In any case, I find them cloying and overly sweet, like the white icing roses on a wedding--there's that word again!--cake.

Wil and Vivian dancingSaving Face is comedic and does include a romance, and there is even a scene in a chapel at one point. But it doesn't club you about the head with it's happy ending. When it comes, it's more like a pause of relief, or a moment of resolution of the several conflicts presented in the film.

The main romance is between two Chinese American women, Wil (played by Michelle Krusiac), a surgical resident, and Vivian (played by Lynn Chen), a ballerina. The actors have remarkable chemistry on screen and are wonderful to watch. I also want to interject here that any butch who can say, "I'd like you to meet my girlfriend, the prima ballerina," is a butch who has my immediate respect.

Wil, on whom the story is focused, struggles with the demands of ambition and her ambivalence towards personal commitment. She also struggles with her single, 48-year-old pregnant mother, who has moved in with her, after having disgraced the family's patriarch. Through these overlapping storylines, the film examines the workings of private shame and public face within the tightly knit Chinese American community of Flushing, NY.

One of the challenges of making a lesbian or gay romantic comedy is that for gay couples there are several real-world checks on the romantic principal of "and they lived happily ever after." In the past, if we became partnered, there was no possibility of state- or church-sanctioned celebration; any vows we might take did not reflect on or represent the harmony of a wider community or world.

Now that the California Supreme Court has ruled against the exclusion of gays and lesbians from civil marriage, perhaps the narrative of gay romance will have to change. But I wonder if it will be a good thing if our stories come to more closely resemble a fairy tale?

My Old Kentucky Gnome

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NCAA Garden GnomeOne reads a lot today about the pressures of "information overload." I spend a lot of time trying to stay informed in various ways, through rss feeds, podcasts, blogs, some radio and print media. Yet I discovered a gaping whole in my knowledge management system while I was browsing at Amazon several weeks ago. There, on the front page, I was greeted with the question, "Did you know that Amazon carries NCAA gnomes?"

Despite my best efforts to stay abreast of the popular, I had to admit: no, I did not know. So I clicked on the link and discovered a huge array of merry NCAA garden gnomes as well as companion NCAA cheerleader garden gnomes. My excitement was intense as I browsed for the Duke Blue Devils garden gnome, only to realize after a few searches and several page refreshes that some schools seem to have gotten quite a big head.

Apparently some schools have won a few too many back-to-back basketball championships and think they're a bit too good for the NCAA Gnome Collection. And this despite being situated smack dab in the middle of yard ornament territory. I guess that's what happens when you go around calling yourself the Harvard of the South. So I've put up an image of Kentucky's team gnome instead, in honor of the improbably large number of bloggers and other people I know in that state.

Tagged, I'm It

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Johnny Bacardi tagged me with a comics meme, which I've found challenging to answer--but that's made it fun, too.

Post the questions below and three covers that answer to these questions; no need to comment unless you want to:

What was the first comic you remember reading?
I'm not sure I can remember that far back! I started reading comics pretty young, starting with Harvey, Archie and Disney comics. My best guess is that I started out with a Casper comic. With some online research, I was able to find out during which years Casper comics were being printed. I visually scanned the lines from the early 70s to see if there were any covers I remembered. I came up with Casper and Wendy #2, from November 1972 as the best candidate for my first comic.

Cover of Casper and Wendy comicI think it may have been the image of a female character on the cover--the girl witch, Wendy--that attracted my attention. But Casper was also a very relatable character. One of Casper's chief story problems is figuring out how to deal with his frustrating and scary relatives, a dilemma that is nearly universal and well understood by children.

Dark Horse has published a collection of Casper comics from the 50s and 60s, and I've read in The Comics Journal and elsewhere that the volume is quite good. I look forward seeing to the next collected Casper volume, which should cover the years of my childhood.

What was the first comic that made you realize that you might be in this for the long haul?
Cover of Uncle Scrooge comicI think it was an Uncle Scrooge comic book. The first time that I can remember dwelling over the language in a comic was in the Uncle Scrooge books. Everything about them was so clever and carefully constructed. For example, I loved it that Scrooge's enemies, the Beagle Boys, called each other by their former prison numbers, rather than by name.

At the age when I would have been reading Uncle Scrooge, I didn't yet know anything about comics collecting as a hobby. But, perhaps inspired by Scrooge McDuck's own avarice, I discovered within me the desire to own every Uncle Scrooge comic in existence. And so it began...

If you had to make a snap decision to take one comic or one comic run to a desert island, what would it be? Don't think too hard!
Cover of Marvel Conan comicMarvel's Conan the Barbarian run. It's long. And I didn't think too hard. I figure if I chose wrong, I can use the rest of my time on the island to beat myself up over my decision.

Link to at least five other people to continue the meme--and they need to link back to your post when doing it.

Five is a lot, but okay. I choose: Joe, Rose, Sleestak, GayProf and kalinara.

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