Tagged: Associated Press

The Point Radio: Return Of The Horror Movie Host

It is an American pop culture tradition that dates back to the 1950s – the TV horror movie host. Producer/actor, Bo Keister, is taking it to the digital age with HILLBILLY HORROR SHOW, a new twist on the old concept. Plus we circle back to AMC’s HALT AND CATCH FIRE to talk to Kerry Bische (Donna) about where the new season finds her character.

 We’re back in a couple of days with Dania Rameriz – from X-MEN to HEROES and now DEVIOUS MAIDS, her acting career is red hot.

John Ostrander, WriterBot 3000

My good friend and fellow ComicMix columnist Denny O’Neil and I were talking once upon a time about the necessity of comics. The point he made was that comics, certainly as we know them, are not something that needs to exist. He pointed out that early automobiles had, on the running board, a place to hold a buggy whip. Why? Because people expected them. As time went by, the buggy whip holder and the buggy whip itself disappeared. Technology had made them superfluous.

I have comforted myself on my choice of occupations. As a writer, I can’t be replaced by a robot. That may not be as true anymore and possibly, in the future, I could become a buggy whip.

Writer robots are already at work in journalism and odds are that you’ve read one. The Associated Press uses them to generate articles on quarterly business earnings. They also generate sports stories. Granted, they are basic and dry but the kind of stories that bots generate have always been that way. The bots can do it quickly and cheaply.

The AP claims that no journalist has lost his/her job to a bot… yet. They say that using the bots frees the reporter to write more incisive stories. The reports that the bots file are drudge work and automated systems are great at relieving us from drudge work. The AP files 3,000 such stories every quarter. According to Automated Insights, the company whose Wordsmith program generates these reports, that’s ten times what AP reporters and editors produced before the program was introduced. That makes AP a lot more money.

That’s journalism. What about creative writing? The Entertainment Intelligence Lab has a program called Scherazade that generates stories. On the website they say: “We present a novel class of story generation system – called an Open Story Generator – that can generate stories in an unknown domain. Our system, Scheherazade, (a) automatically learns a domain model by crowdsourcing a corpus of narrative examples and (b) generates stories by sampling from the space defined by the domain model.”

I’ve read at least one of the stories that Scheherazade has generated and it does basic storytelling in a very pedantic way. It’s not compelling reading but it is a complete story – written by a computer algorithm.  Give it a topic and it will generate a story.

Likewise, MetaphorMagnet from the Creative Language System Group at the Department of Computer Science, University College Dublin, has a Twitter account where it generates creative metaphors such as “So I’m not the courtliest courtier in the entourage. More like the most uncouth cowboy in the posse.” @MetaphorMagnet I will admit, I like that one.

(By the way, this all came to my attention first via Science Friday on NPR.)

Most of us will have heard the theorem that a monkey hitting a keyboard over an infinite amount of time will type the collected works of Shakespeare. Will a computer algorithm? I’m not so sure. On the other hand, could it produce E l James of 50 Shades of Gray? By all accounts (I haven’t read the book myself), given the quality of the prose, the answer may be yes.

More to the point, at least for me, is could I be replaced by a computer program. If you took an algorithm and fed it my works, and it picked up on my style, my way of expressing myself, my themes, my plots, could the program detect a pattern and create a new story in my style?

My problem with the whole “computer as a creative writer” concept is that, while it’s an interesting exercise, there will be something essential lacking in its attempt to tell stories. We use stories to distill the human experience and computers lack that. (Although I wonder whether certain writers have that ability.) As humans, we are all storytellers and we use story every day to explain life to ourselves and others. Computers simply don’t have that and I don’t think you can program them to compensate.

Mind you, I think some publishers would like to try. The money-people often see writers and artists just as widgets, one being as replaceable as another. If they could get a reasonable facsimile of the plots and stories from a computer and save a shit-load of money in the process, wouldn’t they want to do it? Oh, I can see it.

And, after all, what is our brains but our own most personal computers? My brain generates stories by picking from here, from there, from this fact, that memory and piecing it all together. What do I do that eventually a computer couldn’t do? Not in the near future, maybe not in my lifetime, but – who knows?

We writers may some day wind up being the buggy whips on the running boards of literature.

Cue HAL.

This article was generated on the iJohnO 3000.

Mike Gold: Superman, Captain America, and Hitler – In 2013

Mike Gold: Superman, Captain America, and Hitler – In 2013

Gold Art 130724If you’re in Chulalongkorn University’s freshman art class… well, you’re in Thailand. And you’re attending one of that nation’s leading schools.

Oh yeah, and you’re also as dumb as a bag of doorknobs. And The Simon Wiesenthal Center doesn’t think much of you.

Go figure. As you can see from the above photo, the freshmen painted a farewell banner to the outgoing class of 2013. Yes, that’s Superman, Batman, Captain America, the Incredible Hulk, and Adolf Hitler sending the graduates off to their future.

The idea was to show that good and bad people coexist in the world, according to school dean Dr. Suppakorn Disatapundhu. He also said “(We) would like to formally express our sincere apology for our students’ superhero mural… I can assure you we are taking this matter very seriously.” He did; they took it down. Well, they took it down after two days. And after photos got out showing enrobed graduates imitating the infamous Nazi salute.

You will note the superheroes (giving the Hulk the benefit of the doubt) were in color and Wicked Uncle Adolf was in greytones. “They told me the concept was to paint a picture of superheroes who protect the world,” Dr. Suppakorn told the Associated Press. “Hitler was supposed to serve as a conceptual paradox to the superheroes.” I guess something got lost in translation. The Camptown ladies sing this song, Doo-da, Doo-da…

Now, as a professional comic book editor (depending upon how you define “professional”), I would not hire these students. But it’s not out of any perceived sense of anti-Jewish or pro-Hitler feelings. Absent of other information, I’m willing to take Dr. Suppakorn at his word. And I wouldn’t pass them by because they are undereducated. If you can draw swell and you make deadlines and you don’t throw up on the publisher’s rug, you’ll get lots of work.

I wouldn’t hire them because, artistically speaking, these kids really suck at their chosen profession.

As for the folks at the Wiesenthal Center: you guys gotta work on that “Never Again” thing. You’re losing traction.




12 Killed At Dark Knight Rises Screening

At least one dozen people were killed at the midnight screening of the Dark Knight Rises at the Century 16 movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado this morning.  A gunman wearing a gas mask — evidently an imitation of the movie and comics villain Bane — was arrested at the scene. According to the Associated Press, 16 people are in critical condition as of this writing.

24 year old James Holmes was placed under arrest. He offered no resistance.

Various theater locations have increased security, and a Paris debut was cancelled.

This is a breaking story, and as in the case of all such stories, facts unfold slowly and sometimes misinformation comes out. Details as they develop.

Can Michael Swann Fulfill The Damocles Contract?

Acclaimed comic book creator John Byrne releases his latest creation, former MI-6 agent Michael Swann on October 19, 2011 when IDW Publishing’s Cold War #1 hits stores. In Swann’s opening 4-part adventure, “The Damocles Contract,” the former secret agent is called on to stop a defecting British scientist from granting the Soviets complete nuclear dominion over the free world…

Cold War – The Michael Swann Dossier: “The Damocles Contract” #1
Written and drawn by John Byrne
Colored by Ronda Pattison
Lettered by Neil Uyetake
32 pages, $3.99
In Comic Book Stores October 19,2011.

Said IDW’s Chris Ryall on his blog of the book, “This is Byrne doing a British secret service (well, former secret service, as you’ll see) agent in a period setting, which has been a blast so far, seeing him handle new characters and a time period he’s not tackled before. The vehicles alone in issue 3 are worth the price of admission.”

In addition to the standard color cover there will be a black and white cover and a stylized, almost propoganda-style variant covers for each issue. The first issue is also being released as a full variant b&w version as well as the regular full-color issue, too.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Byrne explained, “He operates on a freelance basis, and occasionally his former bosses call upon him to handle something that is perhaps a bit too messy for Her Majesty’s Government to be involved with. So he knows that when he is called upon, things have reached some dire straits. His response to this is usually very straightforward and brutal.”

On his website’s forum, Byrne shared a few more details. “Altho set in the early days of the Cold War, this is NOT going to be a history book. I am playing quite freely with the order in which things happened in the real world. And I will not be tying Swann’s exploits to any specific year or sequence of years. Those with an awareness of the history of this period may spot a few landmarks — one in most particular plays an important part as a sub-thread to my overall tale — but no reason to start checking the History Channel in order to be able to follow what’s going on in this series!”

Cold War – The Michael Swann Dossier: “The Damocles Contract” issue #1 is in stores on October 19.

To learn more about Cold War and IDW, visit http://www.idwpublishing.com/

Below is a preview of issue #1.
Click images for a larger view.

Circuit City Bans MAD Magazine (Temporarily)

Circuit City Bans MAD Magazine (Temporarily)

After the August issue of DC Comics’ MAD Magazine featured a spoof on consumer electronics retailer Circuit City titled "Sucker City," the retailer’s corporate office had the publication banned from stores, according to a recent report from Associated Press. The ban was lifted a short time later, however, and the store issued an apology to customers and MAD Magazine.

"We apologize for the knee-jerk reaction, and have issued a retraction order; the affected stores are being directed to put the magazines back on sale," spokesman Jim Babb said in an e-mail response. "The parody of our newspaper ad in the August MAD was very clever. Most of us at Circuit City share a rich sense of humor and irony … but there are occasional temporary lapses."

The spoof features advertisements for items like HDTVs and video games, including the Nintendo Wii "Guaranteed In Stock … if you’re friends with an employee who hid it in the back for you. Otherwise, ooh, sorry, all sold out."

What made this story especially interesting to me, though, was the sense of humor the retailer showed in its response:

"As a gesture of our apology and deep respect for the folks at MAD Magazine, we are creating a cross-departmental task force to study the importance of humor in the corporate workplace and expect the resulting Powerpoint presentation to top out at least 300 pages, chock full of charts, graphs and company action plans."

At least, I think that was a joke. It had to be a joke, right?

Check out the AP story for more on the Circuit City/MAD Magazine hub-bub, including the customary, humorous response from the MAD crew.

Early Reviews for ‘Dark Knight’

Early Reviews for ‘Dark Knight’

The latest Batman incarnation, The Dark Knight, doesn’t come out for another couple weeks, but the love is already streaming from critics. We’ve also had buzz about a posthumous Oscar for Heath Ledger and his supposedly terrifying take on the Joker.

Rolling Stone was one of the first out of the gate to lay honors at director Christopher Nolan’s feet, calling the movie "a potent provocation decked out as a comic-book movie. Feverish action? Check. Dazzling spectacle? Check. Devilish fun? Check. But Nolan is just warming up."

Over at MTV, the sequel was given a 10 out of 10 for "Wow Factor."

Variety jumps on the batwagon, praising the whole operation: "…this is seriously brainy pop entertainment that satisfies every expectation raised by its hit predecessor and then some."

The Hollywood Reporter praises Christian Bale: "Bale again brilliantly personifies all the deep traumas and misgivings of Batman’s alter ego, Bruce Wayne. A bit of Hamlet is in this Batman."

An early review at AICN says, "Just go see it."

And an Associated Press review says, "Running just over two and a half hours, "The Dark Knight" is a true crime epic. Throughout, the Joker’s bag of tricks is bottomless, twisted to the point of horror-flick sick."

Accidental Overdose Killed Heath Ledger

Accidental Overdose Killed Heath Ledger

Actor Heath Ledger, who was found dead in a Manhattan apartment on Jan. 22, died due to a lethal combination of various painkillers, anti-anxiety medication and sleeping aids, according to the New York City Medical Examiner.

According to an Associated Press report posted today, Ledger’s body contained a mixture of oxycodone, hydrocodone, diazepam, temazepam, alprazolam and doxylamine.

There was no information provided about the levels of the various drugs found in Ledger’s system.

Ledger’s publicist released the following statement from Ledger’s father, Kim:

"While no medications were taken in excess, we learned today the combination of doctor-prescribed drugs proved lethal for our boy. Heath’s accidental death serves as a caution to the hidden dangers of combining prescription medication, even at low dosage."


Disney World Hates Kids!

Disney World Hates Kids!

According to the Associated Press, if you go down to Walt Disney World and want to cop a meal at Victoria and Albert’s, the five-diamond rated restaurant in the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, you better leave your pre-tens at the hotel. They are not welcome. Or tolerated.

The restaurant manager said that banning young children makes for a better dining experience for adults. Probably so; in fact, I’ll bet banning kiddies from Walt Disney World would make for a better experience for adults. Shorten the lines, too, although they’d have to keep those "you must be THIS tall" signs.

Having never been to Victoria and Albert’s, I don’t know if they have topless dancers in the lounge.


Cartoonist Doug Marlette Dies In Crash

Cartoonist Doug Marlette Dies In Crash

Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Doug Marlette, creator of the newspaper strip Kudzu, was killed in a car accident this morning in Mississippi.

According to the Associated Press, Marlette was a passenger in a car that struck a tree after skidding on a wet road. The car hydroplaned and struck the tree, killing the cartoonist. Marlette was working in Oxford, Mississippi, with a high school theatrical group that was mounting a musical version of Kudzu.