Saturday, 26 March 2011

Wizards and Robots...

I've been asked by a few people now about projects that I'm working on, and it occurred to me that maybe I should share a little more than I do. I'm always reluctant to talk too much about comics before they're complete as I'm always worried about 'jinxing' them. Strange that someone who works in IT should worry about something so intrinsically non-logical, but there you have it, that's the contradiction that is Dave West.

Anyway, there are two projects that are well on their way at the moment, and a few others that are in progress but they can be the subject of a future posting.

Marleen Lowe and I are following up on Whatever Happened To The World's Fastest Man? with Has Kane Mesmer Lost His Magic Touch?
Kane Mesmer was mentioned in passing a few times in our first collaboration, and even then I had the idea for this story eating away at me. It differs from the first in that this one deals with two characters, the relationship that grows between them and their world views, as well as them having a few odd abilities of course :o).
Marleen is 16 pages in (and I've sampled one of the pages below), and, as expected, she's breathing life into the story through her artwork. I'm not sure when it'll be completed, and I wouldn't dream of rushing Marleen, or any other artist, these things mustn't be rushed.

I've also been working with Steve Holder on ROBOT SHORTS, a collection of short stories written by myself and illustrated by Steve (the hard ones) and myself (the easier ones).
Having just finished greyscaling The Flower, illustrated by Steve, I'm now going to finish off my contributions and will then see if the book is ready. It's already coming in at about 100 pages, and will be printed in a nice little hardcover A5 edition, the same as Strange Times.
I feel extremely fortunate to be working with such great artists, as with the other books happening behind the scenes, and am really looking forward to seeing them on the shelves.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Inherent Failure... Guaranteed.

I really loved my iPOD. As it said on the box, it's a Classic. I downloaded all sorts of music and animation from iTunes, or copied them across from my own DVDs and CDs. It was my constant companion on long journeys. My favourite gadget by far.
And then it failed on me.
It would no longer talk to my laptop, or for that matter to any other laptop in the house. I'd followed all the instructions I could find for de-installing and re-installing iTUNES etc, but all had had no effect, other than to eat into my leasure hours.
As the months passed it became less and less useful to me, and soon found itself at the back of a drawer.
And then I got a job in Manchester and it was suddenly very easy to arrange to get an Apple Expert to look at it, and so I arranged an appointment and then in due course found myself armed with both my iPOD and my laptop, in the Apple store awaiting the expert.
As the minutes ticked away I quickly realised that the Apple Expert was entirely that. He had no idea what way up a laptop went and his first suggestion, after having heard what my problem was, was to reformat the iPOD.
'I suggest we reformat your iPOD'. He said.
'And lose all of my music and cartoons ?' I replied.
'Well, it might fix the problem', he responded as if that would persuade me.
'You don't actually know what the problem is, so that sounds a bit of a longshot to me. At the moment it does have a use as it stores my entire CD collection, and the complete Animated Batman Cartoon series, if you wipe it clean then it'll just be a small, albeit nicely designed, box of glass and plastic', I was not a fan of his suggestion.
To be fair he struggled with the problem for about 20 minutes, until I suggested he try one of the new iPOD Classics, from the shelf. I think he sensed a sales opportunity and so rushed off to get one.
'That doesn't work either !', he said, stating the obvious as I was stood next to him.
'Let's try an iTOUCH', he suggested. He was getting the idea now.
'Hey, that works. Looks like you need to upgrade to an iTOUCH'. He was getting into his stride now, sell stuff, rather than try to fix it.
'No. I think not', I burst that bubble pretty quickly.
One of his supervisors wandered over for an update on the situation.
'How long have you had the iPOD?, he asked, whilst turning it over and over in his hands looking for non-existent signs of misuse.
'Only about 3 years', I informed him.
'Well, that's a long time', he said, 'think of the value you've had in that time, maybe it's time you get a new device, the iTOUCH is lighter, thinner, has less storage ...'
'No', I cut him off. 'I'm not sure I want to invest in another Apple product if they are expected to only last a few years'. I thanked them both for their time and, taking my laptop and frozen-in-time iPOD, left the store.

On the train home my mind wandered back to my youth. We used to have a television that lasted for, well it seemed like forever. It had a nice wooden casing, nice heavy glass screen and stuck out at the back as it housed a whole load of 'valves'.
When it eventually failed, we opended the back and quickly located the 'failed valve' which we replaced with a spare from a big box of spares, closed it all up, plugged it in and... it worked.

We did this for many years but eventually we succumbed to marketing pressure and bought a colour TV, the old one ending up in my room, where I could watch Star Trek without worry of it clashing with my Mum's favourite soap.
I loved it when it broke, which it very rarely did, as it gave me the excuse to open up the back and look at all those wonderfully designed 'valves'. By this time I'd realised that they didn't actually hold the TV programmes, but they were still magical to look at.
Imagine my disappointment when the colour TV failed, after only about 2 years, and upon opening it all we were confronted with were a whole load of two dimensional and drab looking circuit boards. Which we couldn't replace or fix. Technical Advancement had caused the removal of a little bit of the magic that inhabited my world. The magic of TV Sets had gone away.
As I sat there on the train I realised that that had been the change that had moved us from a 're-use and repair' culture to a 'throw it away and buy new' one.
It seems to be cheaper now to do so.
There's no interest in fixing things anymore, and companies seem to go out of their way to make sure we never return to those days, despite my sorting out my plastic, from my glass and from my paper every week.
So to Apple it seems that I should be overjoyed that I got 3 good years from my iPOD.
As a consumer I must say that I'm underwhelmed by this attitude.
But then again, maybe I'm just a dreamer, I used to think I could bend a spoon armed only with the power of my mind...