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  Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Review: Watchmen

Bottom line: Mildly entertaining digital puppet show but the few good ideas are undone by good intentions and the revised ending misses the point.

[spoilers follow, as if you care] The "best comic book movie ever made" is now officially a bomb, and with good reason. The director and writers waste their opportunity with a shallow, empty recreation of the graphic novel. There are moments when the movie feels like it's really working and then you realize that it's only because they're riffing off another source. The whole film lacks a feel for the 80s flavour that's captured so perfectly by Napoleon Dynamite.

For example, a large chunk of the first third of the movie borrows heavily from Blade Runner and at first it seems like a lot of fun, especially since both stories are from the postmodern 80s noir genre, so they share a lot of similarities. But it's more recreation than interpretation and ends up feeling like a Blade Runner ride at Epcot Centre (that's right -- Epcot -- not even a fun amusement park). At first it sounds like Vangelis, then you realize that it's Vangelis-styled elevator music. We've been there, it was called the first Blade Runner soundtrack. When they finally leave the Blade Runner stuff behind, it changes the entire tone of the flick ... that is what it would have felt like if they'd changed illustrators halfway through the book.

Nods to other flicks are squashed in, but they're cheap and shallow. In a scene set in Vietnam, they make reference to the 'Ride of the Valkyries' bit from Apocalypse Now with a cheap computer graphic (the song is mentioned in the novel in a different context). In another nod to Kubrick, they lovingly recreate the 'War Room' from Dr. Strangeove but replicate none of the hijinks that brings the absurdity of the original to life. Every film reference makes you long for the original source where it was done better and without CGI.

Some subtle changes are troubling. In the novel, the character of Ozymandias is a square-jawed "superman". In the movie, he's nerdy, intellectual and effeminate, recalling the interview where Watchmen writer Alan Moore called Snyder's 300 "homophobic". Even if you argue that the movie version of the character was inspired by Bill Gates -- who isn't gay, btw -- that changes the spirit of the story.

But then, the spirit of the story is completely tossed by the ending. A lot of fanboys have argued that the new ending is an 'improvement' over the orginal. It replaces a giant, genetically-modified psychic squid with ... wait for it ... FIVE HUNDRED 9/11s!!! ... Maybe it was less. It's a notion so stupid, it was already parodied in Team America: World Police. If your "improved ending" was parodied five years ago, good work.

Because the revised ending is lame, it knocks the forward momentum out of the detective story that's supposed to act as the movie's narrative spine and the story flops around and wanders in a lot of spots. It's made more obvious every time the tough kid from The Bad News Bears shows up. He's the most engaging character in the movie and carries much of it and when he's offscreen, the movie sags like a couple of the other character's penises.

The ending is also whitewashed; you don't see much of the destruction and there's no blood or bodies or madness as in the novel and none of the horror. ... er, the horror. It doesn't appear that the filmmakers appreciated -- or agreed with -- the point of the ending, which was something about terror being the product of utopian projects. Wasn't that the great unlearned lesson of the whole 20th Century?

And that's a funny thing as we've just spent the better part of the past decade unlearning the great unlearned point oft he 20th Century yet again.. 9/11 supposedly put an end to irony and heroes & heroic projects became real again during the Bush years ... and now the world finds itself dealing with squid. Too soon?

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Monday, March 30, 2009

New Work: Canyon Banners

Four banners set to standard web banner proportions.

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Friday, March 27, 2009

Waterfront Plan

The reconfiguration of Queen's Quay was first announced a few years ago but things went quiet until this week when details of the plan were announced. It looks good and some touches, like the grassy streetcar lanes, are really sweet. Two lanes of traffic will vanish and be replaced by wide sidewalks, trees and the Martin Goodman Trail. Suddenly, the 'wave decks' being constructed right now make sense: they'll be great places to sit and people watch.

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Hooray for Everything!

Here's the last kick at the 'Earth Hour' can of corporate greenwashing:

First, Alanis is on a jet:

They could have used that ad to encourage people to choose rail over air travel when possible ... but if they did that, it might look a bit odd because the big media company that invented Earth Hour is co-sponsoring an Earth Hour ad contest offering a trip to Cannes:
To celebrate Earth Hour, ad magazine Campaign Brief -- with Earth Hour partners Fairfax/The Sydney Morning Herald -- is offering the chance to win a trip to Cannes. Yes, in a big old emission-puffing plane.

Lightbulbs are easy, transportation issues are hard. A radio station in New Zealand is "spreading awareness":
“This is the worst kind of corporate greenwashing”, said Wellington resident Kent Duston. “MoreFM are pulling out all the stops to promote Earth Hour, yet they are running their activities from the back of their corporate SUVs!

Doing anything is hard, really:
Aware of the criticism, Earth Hour's organisers last year countered it with something concrete: businesses that signed up would need to pledge to reduce their emissions over the following year by 5 per cent. But this year, even that requirement has been dropped, and there has been no accounting of whether last year's sponsors lived up to their pledge.

No, wait ... doing useful things would be relatively easy if you're not distracted by lightbulbs.

And our awareness of the WWF is from their advertisements. What do we really know about them:
WWF Australia was financially rewarded throughout the years of the Howard Government.WWF received a five-fold funding boost from the federal government between 1996 and 2004, at the same time as government funding to almost every other environment group was slashed.

Also in Australia, Earth Hour's sponsors are some of that country's worst polluters.

Wake up, sheeple! ... ha ha, I've always wanted to say that.

Anyhow, the funniest bit about Earth Hour comes from the skeptical National Post:
Then again, we're not environmentalists. We're capitalists. In fact, we're capitalists who've been known to enjoy an ice cold Coke, not to mention a wholesome musical concert now and again. It's not that we don't recognize some rudimentary concept of environmental appropriateness in lifestyle, conduct and thinking. But we prefer to put our faith in the inter-twined march of technology and the free market rather than feel-good slogans and rituals.

Oh yeah? Capitalists? That paper's never made a dime and, according to the latest NADbank survey, it never will:
The National Post and The Globe and Mail, meanwhile, saw their readership sink by 13.1 per cent and 6.5 per cent, respectively. ... The Post and 24 Hours were the only two papers to lose readers in that combined print and online category. The Post's combined readership slipped by 1.7 per cent ...

13 per cent? Guess what, National Post? You suck at capitalism! If you really wanted to get your brand out there, you'd be following Coke and Wal-Mart and sponsoring Earh Hour.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Hot Docs Media Roundup

Here's a media recap from the Hot Docs press conference:

Torontoist has a succinct summary ... and a nice pic.

Marc likes local stuff:
Generally, it would follow that more goodwill could be generated in Toronto for financial support of quality documentaries about Toronto than funding for local filmmakers to dart off to other places. And, considering the growth of contempt for the Hollywood infestation associated with the TIFF, a festival where professional hometown stories was the main selling point would probably help transcend the corporate sponsor deprivation on display.

And Indiewire, Variety and Screen Daily.

The Globe almost covered it. CBC has much more.

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Hot Docs Press Conference

Hot Docs runs from April 30 to May 10 this year and this year's programme was announced at the press conference at Revival this morning. I'm not providing the graphics for the fest this year, so for the first time -- er, ever -- I was able to attend without having to go home and pull twenty all-nighters. A single Hot Docs was the largest project I'd ever worked on... and I did it five times. The last time I was able just enjoy Hot Docs as part of the audience was waaaay back when passes were photocopied pieces of pink paper and you could just wander in to most screenings because 'what kind of person goes to see see documentaries?'

How things change.

There are over 150 docs at this year's fest. Usually by this point I've already seen a third of the films but this not this year, so no inside tips on what's good. But here are some local films you should really see:

I think I've been hearing about Suzanne's Cat Ladies doc since those Hot Docs passes were pink pieces of paper ... and now it's done!

I'm going to be sure to see Alan Black's Bingo doc, Jackpot. When I was a teenager, I used to work fundraising Bingo's from time to time at the bingo hall in London, Ont. owed by Paul Haggis' father. It was a crazy place ... alan's last movie was about musicians in the Yukon.

Alan Zweig's new film, A Hard Name, is about ex-convicts meeting the world after prison.

Sarah Goodman, who directed the excellent 2004 doc Army of One, has a new film called When We Were Boys, about preteens in a private school . Velcrow Ripper's new doc, Fierce Light, also continues its run around the world. There are also new films by Hubert Davis and the 'Let's All Hate Toronto' guy, Albert Nerenberg. A local film also opens the fest for the first time this year: Jennifer Baichwal's Act of God.

Tickets are on sale now and the screening schedule hits the streets next week!

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Monday, March 23, 2009


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Friday, March 20, 2009

New Work


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Thursday, March 19, 2009


The National Post -- a newsletter seniors graduate to when they outgrow 'Zoomer' -- calls the Gary Goodyear evolution thing part of A Liberal War On Faith:

But can you blame him? This was supposed to be an interview about legitimate policy -- not his religious convictions.

But this didn't become a story because Goodyear is religious; this became a story because Goodyear, when confronted with a simple question about evolution, automatically got his back up and made it into a religious issue. He didn't help his case later on when he tried to clarify his views:

Instead, you can view a more enlightening discussion about evolution here:


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Things Are Getting Crazy Now


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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Of Course!

'Of course' I believe in evolution, Goodyear says.

But his defense is bonkers:

"We are evolving every year, every decade. That's a fact, whether it is to the intensity of the sun, whether it is to, as a chiropractor, walking on cement versus anything else, whether it is running shoes or high heels, of course we are evolving to our environment. But that's not relevant and that is why I refused to answer the question. The interview was about our science and tech strategy, which is strong."

Of course! But a Sun newspaper, of all places, makes the point:

Goodyear, an avowed creationist whose election campaign was endorsed by various ultra-conservative religious groups opposed to gay marriage and most everything else, is missing the point. Canada's science minister must be up-front about whether or not his religious beliefs (which he is, of course, entitled to) are influencing his political actions. He must not cloak himself in ambiguity as his government cuts funds to scientific research.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

He's the Minister!

The Globe and Mail reports that the federal Minister of State for Science & Technology (pictured as a giant, mobile Eddie Murphy head, below) is evasive about his views on evolution:

"I'm not going to answer that question. I am a Christian, and I don't think anybody asking a question about my religion is appropriate,"
Some have expressed concern that Mr. Goodyear, a chiropractor from Cambridge, Ont., is suspicious of science, perhaps because he is a creationist.

What's most disturbing is that the minister clearly believes that religion and evolution are mutually exclusive. Even the Vatican -- in the news today encouraging African's to avoid using condoms to stop the spread of AIDS -- isn't that extreme.

I was going to make a joke about Kinsella dusting off his toy dinosaur ... but he already did.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

New Work: City Builders

You can combine the cartoon buildings in these city builder files to make your own cities.

Each file contains some landscape details and a selection of buildings.

The mid-sized towers in this file can be used with the above sets to fill in your downtown:

More of these are on their way ...

10:16 AM , # , |

The Earth Hour Corporate Greenwash, Pt. 2

As we get closer to the date, I've seen more and more people spreading 'awareness' about Earth Hour. You would assume that it's "awareness" about environment issues -- and not just awareness about awareness -- so I went to the Earth Hour website to find out more.

There is actually NO CONTENT about useful things you can do for the environment on the Earth Hour website. Not a single thing ... unless you count turning out the lights for an hour at the end of March. The website does offer product placements. Corporations receive mention for token gestures. Did you know that Coke is shutting off its billboard in Times Square for an hour? Wow, that must be a real sacrifice.

Instead you are encouraged to spread nebulous "awareness" of the Earth Hour brand, linked loosely to global warming as though climate change is the only issue facing the world. If you click on the "Take Action" link, you are directed to a page that encourages you to spread "awareness" on your mobile phone and even has a special partnership with Blackberry and includes their logo.

No mention of the fact that consumer electronics are a major source of pollution, since they contain all sorts of toxins that are released into the environment when someone tosses their obsolete phone or ipod after a year or two of use. Earth Hour could be used to challenge people to use their out-of-date gadgets for an additional year or to challenge companies to stop making disposable gadgets and, instead, make gadgets that can be used longer and upgraded .... but Blackberry might not like that, especially during hard economic times.

Earth Hour could also help raise awareness of the damage caused by the fast food industry and challenge people to avoid fast food from now on ... but McDonalds is turning off a fryer somewhere, so it's probably better to sidestep that issue as well. As mentioned in the earlier post, Coke has their logo on the Earth Hour tv ads, so the campaign isn't going to be taking on bottled water or Coke's other water issues.

What about the average suburban lawn and the environment damage caused by all that grass? Well, not a peep from "Earth Hour".

It amazing that so many people can channel so much energy into an "awareness"-raising exercise that, in fact, is unable to create any substantial awareness of real issues because of its commitments to big money.

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Sunday, March 15, 2009


Today is the 7th birthday of this blog! The blogging has been on and off and up and down over the years with breaks here and there. Over the past few years, it's been quiet around here as real life became extra busy and the social sites provided some distraction ...

... but we're back!

Facebook and Twitter are fun novelties ... but they're kind of shallow compared to a blog. Recently, I've started rediscovering this blog again and just how much more fun it is that 'poking' someone you had a crush on in grade 10.

So, happy birthday, blog!

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Friday, March 13, 2009

PJ's Pets Exposed

If you haven't already, check out the CBC Marketplace episode that exposes the shady dealings of PJ's Pets and how they not only sell puppies from puppy mills, they pay to muzzle the people they've shafted.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Stockland Wonderland

I just saw this ... It's Stock Illustrator Roundup #1 at myStockIcons. Uhhh ... I have no idea how I ended up being lumped in with such talent as Tater and Frenchy and those other two, but there you go. If you check out the portfolios of those four illustrators, you'll see some damn fine work.

Here's my 15 seconds:

Humorous, and sometimes r-rated, blamb’s style is distinct, sketchy and lively. Sort of like a skilled doodle in the back of a physics notebook. His pieces have an editorial vibe to them and usually tell of long tales.

I dunno, does this look R-rated to you?

So, go buy some pix from these kindly people.

Russell Tate's site can be found here.
SirBS' site is right here.

11:13 PM , # , |

Earth Hour Greenwashing

We were watching the tube last night and an ad came on for 'Earth Hour' and the ad ended with the Earth Hour logo accompanied by the logos of Coke and Sears. Last year, Earth Hour seemed like a lame exercise but seeing that Coke logo makes it clear that it's a ridiculous bit of corporate greenwashing.

Here how "green" Coke is:

Coke uses genetically modified ingredients in North America:
The company that churns out enough soft drink and juice products to fill one or more of the Great Lakes says it won't bow to pressure to avoid use of sweeteners made from genetically engineered crops, nor will it label its products as “biotech” or “non-biotech.”

Coke is sweetened with high fructose corn syrup and the company tries to block shipments of Coke made with sugar coming from Mexico:
Coca-Cola downplays the appeal of the cane sugar version, insisting that "there's not a perceivable taste difference between Mexican Coke and Coke bottled in the U.S.," Martin said.

But fans of the import claim there's a world of a difference.

"It's got a much different, cleaner taste," Craven said. "You don't have that syrupy coat in your mouth after you drink it."

Coke is a major producer of bottled, treated tap water:
More and more environmentalists are beginning to question the purpose of lugging those heavy, inefficient, polluting bottles all over the Earth. The parent organization of the World Wildlife Fund, the Switzerland-based World Wide Fund for Nature, argues strongly that the product is a waste of money and is very environmentally unfriendly.

... hold on, that's the same group that organized Earth Hour. uurggghhh ...

Coke opposes deposit return bottle systems that would reduce the amount of plastic that finds its way into the environment, creating things like the Pacific Garbage Patch.
Canada's soft-drink industry has followed its U.S. counterpart in switching to non-refillable containers. The Canadian market share for soft drinks in refillable bottles declined from about 47 percent in 1985 to less than 5 percent in 1997...

However ...
Canada's beer industry, on the other hand, prefers the refillable bottle mainly because it is the least-expensive packaging option, says Usman Valiante, a consultant for the Brewers of Ontario [UVA]. The crucial cost savings come from Canada's near-100-percent return rates, which help ensure that bottles are reused 15-20 times [BAC]. Consumers inveterately return bottles and do not regard returning them as an inconvenience [YVON].

And if you're one of those Obama fans, note that in the US, Coke is a big donor/supporter of the Republicans.

I rarely touch Coke because I have a sweet tooth and love the sweetness and carbonation and I'm easily addicted. And I love the classic logo design. But it's incredibly fattening -- probably because of the HFCS -- and as much as I might crave the product, one would have to be an idiot to consider that company being anywhere close to being 'green'.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Born To Lose

Who was the only one who could defeat Quellor, The Supreme Oppressor? This rather excellent Cracked list reveals the truth.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Dork Shelf

Will & Friends have created a new fanboy geek blog called Dork Shelf, complete with a podcast.

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Star trek Trailer 3

The third trailer for the new Trek movie is a doozy:


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Just Purchased

This old file still has some life left in it ...

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Monday, March 09, 2009

First Purchase

This file was just downloaded for the first time:


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Friday, March 06, 2009

When You Wish Upon a Star

And so, John Tory's long, painful lack of a political resurrection comes to and end. There was nothing really all that objectionable about Tory; he did a god job running against Miller in the last municipal election ... but for some reason, the "rich kid" seemed completely unable to wear enough Mennen Speedstick to cover up the whiff of priviledge. That was best demonstrated during the television debate against Miller. When asked, "What is your favourite intersection in the city?", Tory replied, "Bayview & York Mills."

Here, for your viewing pleasure, is the intersection of Bayview and York Mills:

On the four corners, there are a low-rise office building, a fire station, an arena and a strip mall. If you stand at one of those corners, you will wish you were somewhere -- anywhere -- else.

But it's surrounding by very wealthy people.

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New Work: Attack of the Racist Space Penis


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Just Purchased: Stoner Dude


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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Being Boring

That's it, we're done with Being Erica after this week's episode's plot managed to be the same as the The Bachelor finale and delivered none of the sexsational sizzle the promo ads promised. This article sums it up:

The tease promises more than it delivers. Erica jumps back in time to the turn of Y2K, when she had a brief flirtation with a former roommate, Cassidy (Anna Silk). She explores it for a few seconds, but then there's Ryan, and Aaron, and, well, pretty soon they'll have to call this show Being Young and Restless.

I ave no idea who 'Aaron" is, but I can see why they hedged on the lesbian experimentation storyline as it would have limited appeal. There are only four demographic groups who would have enjoyed the show if they'd taken it further: lesbian women, gay men, straight women and straight men. Actually the ''warning" at the start of the show should have read "Warning, this episode contains scenes of nudity and sexuality that your great-grandma would consider lame. Watching a monkey do push-ups is sexier."

Instead, Erica did what The Bachelor did: tossed off a perfectly good -- if somewhat dull -- dude for a "shot" at love ... complete with the same, trite observations, "Better now than three months from now." Except the Bachelor had the excuse of being unscripted. And at least Molly plays golf; all we've seen Ethan do is play Wii and rent videos.

Sometimes I'm compelled to keep watching a show out of habit after it takes a wrong turn --LOST third season was one, Heroes another -- but watching the past few episodes of Being Erica felt more like obligation than enjoyment and there are better ways to spend the time ... like watching these Star Trek videos:

If they fix it, let me know.

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Monday, March 02, 2009

Pixel Pushing: Painting

I've been looking for natural painting software and have been using a Corel Painter X trial (but Painter 11 just came out, so I'm giving that a spin now). The software is impressive in its breadth and depth but I haven't been happy with it.

First, it's not a piece of software that you can just pick up and use, and that doesn't feel very 'natural' to me. If I want to draw with a pencil, I just pick it up and draw. You're provided with a huge number of choices of medium and fine control over how they work but the menus are dense and I wasn't able to hit the ground running. A big snag was pressure sensitivity. Painter seems to recognize two levels of pressure from my Wacom tablet: soft and HARD. I've tried adjusting the tablet settings and the software settings but I just can't get the thing to give me a decent read on my drawing pressure (my styles depend on a good read of my pen pressure, which I get from the Adobe software).

Needless to say, I'm not ready to shell out $400 for software that won't allow me to easily do what I want: colour comics. I don't mind complexity, but I mucked around for ages with some of the tools and never got them working the way I wanted.

Well, today Kemie (an istock acquaintance) posted some sample art using some simple paint software called ArtRage. It costs $25. And, at first glance, it gave me what I wanted on the cheap.

First, it recognized all of the levels of pressure sensitivity from the tablet which meant that I could draw the way I wanted -- naturally -- right from the start. Second, even thought it provides a much narrower range of tools with fewer options for control, I was able to select the pencil tool and with a few nudges, get pencil lines that looked and felt like a real pencil.

But the best thing about ArtRage is the interface. It gives you the entire screen for drawing with basic flyout menus that are easy to get rid of. Fullscreen workspace is the default makes you realize that menu and flyout clutter is a huge weakness on Painter and the Adobe software.

I'm not giving up on Painter ... but I'm too poor to invest in something that's way too deep for my purposes. And I need to figure out the tablet issues: Painter certainly has some advice to give on how to be insensitive.

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Kat interviewed Erin from Being Erica.

Spacing launches its podcast with an interview with Ken Livingstone.

Blog post about Tom 'Sodafish' Nulens.

11:17 PM , # , |

Lying in Bed, Just Like Wilson Station Did

When I was in university, Wilson Station was the major hub between York and civilization: The Sorry State of Wilson Station.

3:09 PM , # , |

Web Crap

Techdirt reports that the RIAA is laying off staff:

The real issue is that the RIAA has basically managed to run one of the dumbest, most self-defeating strategies over the last decade. Rather than helping major record labels adjust to the changing market, it continually, repeatedly and publicly destroyed its own reputation and the reputation of the labels -- each time shrinking their potential market by blaming the very people they should have been working to turn into customers.

Meanwhile, Canadian internet service providers and music groups have been arguing against net neutrality:

The Canadian Independent Record Production Association (CIRPA) wasn't as concerned with benefits to society as it was about making sure indie artists in Canada could earn a living. One good way to do that, it suggested, might be to just flat-out block access to P2P sites like The Pirate Bay—a practice that certain kinds of neutrality rules might prevent.

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Sunday, March 01, 2009

Tiny Art Director

Kat linked to this one the facebook: Bill Zeman's daughter demands artwork from him and he complies. She then subjects the work to harsh critiques. You can buy a collection of the work in book form.

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