Thursday, January 19, 2017

Railroad Tycoon 3 (2003)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

I don’t usually buy video games, and when I do, it’s usually one of the GTA games or something along those lines. I also have this interest in railroads and trains. I came across Railroad Tycoon, which is a railroad simulation. It looked interesting. You lay track, plan routes, buy farms and stuff. Being that it was something like $10, I decided to give it a try.

Ok, it’s not really that simple. There are all sorts of different scenarios you can play. Each scenario has three sets of stated goals. It might be to connect a certain number of cities or to connect two particular cities within a given time frame. You can get bronze, silver or gold, each representing one of the sets of goals. (As you might expect, bronze will be the easiest where gold will require the most skill and/or effort.)

Laying track is pretty easy. You select either single or double track and put it where you want it. Sometimes, you can’t always get it exactly where you want it to go. It may have to be done in several stretches or you simply can’t get it to go through a dip in the land. I’ve also noticed that if you’re in a scenario where you’re using electric track, it will randomly switch back to non-electric. I haven’t been able to figure this out, but it’s not that hard to make it electric later on.

You also have to connect cities, which is officially done with a train station. Stations come in three sizes, each being able to cover a different amount of surrounding area. When you have two connected cities on the same track, you can run a train between those two cities. You even get to choose between several different models that vary in cost. You do have to accommodate mountains, rivers and other land features, which isn’t that hard once you start playing.

Some scenarios have restrictions. It might be that you can only lay track that’s connected to existing track or maybe you can only lay a certain number of miles every year. (A year in game time can pass in a few minutes, depending on which speed you have it on.) In some cases, these restrictions make it kind of difficult. I generally avoid certain scenarios based on the restrictions.

You start with some money, which varies based on the scenario you’re playing, but you can add to that by selling stock in your company or floating a bond. (Some scenarios don’t allow for one or both features.) You’re probably going to fail altogether pretty quickly if you run out of money, since you do need money to maintain tracks and trains, so be sure not to spend everything. It’s also easy to spend a lot of money on tracks only to realize that you need to buy stations or put up maintenance depots.

If you don’t like the scenarios, there are also campaigns, which is nothing more than a different set of scenarios that can be strung together. I’ve never been able to get the campaigns to save properly, meaning that when I reload, the scenarios that I’ve beaten don’t seem to have been saved. I don’t know if I’m doing something wrong or if I’m just missing something. Again, there are campaign scenarios that I avoid based on the restrictions and I don’t usually play the campaign because I feel no need to.

If you can’t get used to game play during one of the campaigns or scenarios, there’s even a sandbox mode that just lets you lay track and build stuff without having to worry about money or any restrictions. I recommend playing this just to get used to the game.

The one big complaint that I have is that there are only a certain number of maps, which can get boring. There are user-generated maps, but I can’t seem to get those to work with my version. I used to have the retail version, but I lost the discs and I think that’s the version that I need. I’ve since replaced it with a different version, which doesn’t seem to support the user-generated maps. Again, maybe I’m missing something. You can make your own maps, but I don’t have the patience for that.

The physics can also seem a little unrealistic. I’ve laid track that’s had an unusual grade, almost going straight up at times, and the trains will still make it. I’ve never had a train not make it up any grade. It is sometimes hard to lay the track, though, and this doesn’t seem to be based on grade or anything else. Sometimes, it’s something obvious like a house. Other times, I just have to keep moving the mouse around to find a position that’s agreeable with the computer. It’s frustrating when you want to have a track go a certain way.

It is a somewhat addictive game. I’ll play for a while and love it, then get bored with it only to come back to it a few weeks later. One of my favorite things to do is to have computer players start companies and eventually acquire them. I don’t know why this is. Maybe it’s having the computer do some of the work or maybe it’s the challenge of acquiring enough capital to actually acquire them. There are still a few aspects I haven’t tried, like the Internet and LAN play. (Being that I only have the one version currently, it doesn’t look like I’ll be doing LAN any time soon.)

I give the game four stars. The controls are easy to use, but like I said, it would probably be best to play the sandbox mode, even for a few minutes. You can change your view from close up to far away, and this might be distracting at first. The only thing I’d really add to the game is a random scenario generator. I know it may get a bit distracting to have Berlin, Tokyo and Houston close together, but it can get boring playing the same set of maps over and over again. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Secret Rules of Modern Living: Algorithms (2015)

What do Donald Trump, Chicago Transit Authority and Buffalo Sabres all have in common?  They’re all at the top of the list on Google Trends right now.  I’ve always wondered if starting with popular search terms would improve my ranking on Google.  I came to realize that even if it did, the effect would be temporary, as interests change.  Hockey is seasonal.  Presidents have term limits.  In time, whatever the Chicago Transit Authority did to get in the news will be forgotten.  I’m not even sure these terms will be at the top when I actually post this review in the morning.

When I watched The Secret Rules of Modern Living: Algorithms, any illusion of making keywords work was dispelled.  They go into how Google works early on and it has little to do with the search term, itself.  Instead, an algorithm looks at sites that link to a page and use their importance to determine how well a page ranks.  It’s probably more complicated that most people would understand.  (And I’m sure Google doesn’t want the BBC giving away all their secrets.)

Algorithms are much simpler than that.  An algorithm is simply a set of rules for accomplishing something.  Euclid devised one to find the largest square tile that you could fill an area without having to cut tiles.  (It does so by finding the largest common denominator.)  There are algorithms for sorting sets of data and for matching high-school graduates to colleges.

With computers, we can do more.  We can match people on dating sites.  We can even get movie recommendations from a computer if we’d simply rate enough movies.  Not all algorithms are meant to be perfect, though.  One is able to help Heathrow Airport send planes on their way.  It‘s not optimal, but it has help to save fuel costs.  Mathematicians are working on one to solve the traveling salesman problem, which could net someone a million dollars.

Not everyone is going to enjoy this documentary.  The mere mention of math can cause people to scream and/or run away.  This documentary does handle it in an entertaining and easily comprehensible manner.  If you’ve ever wondered how this sort of stuff works, this is a good place to start.  (I will say that math and science programs are a lot more enjoyable when you’re not forced to take notes.)

I don’t think I’d recommend buying this documentary unless you’re a teacher.  Replay value is going to be limited if you’re just a casual viewer.  I was able to find it streaming on Netflix.  I don’t know how easy it would be to find elsewhere.  (Although, I imagine Google’s algorithm would make it much easier.)

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Beverly Hills Cop (1984)

It seems like the movies and TV shows present us with two extremes when it comes to law enforcement.  There are the straight-laced, by-the-book officers that play within the rules.  They don’t get much grief from their superiors and occasionally get results.  Axel Foley isn’t that kind of police officer.  He’s the kind of guy that would take evidence and use it to catch some more bad guys.  In the first few minutes of the movie, his bust goes bad and he watches as his evidence (cigarettes) falls off the back of a truck while his suspect manages to use said truck to destroy half the cars in Detroit.  (I’ve always felt bad for anyone that had to find their car in ruins with no idea of what actually happened.)  This doesn’t go over well with his boss.

When Foley gets back to his apartment, he finds that Mikey Tandino has broken in and made himself at home.  Fortunately, Mikey is an old friend.  He’s just been released from prison and already has a job as a security guard out in Beverly Hills.  The thing is that he’s stolen some bearer bonds from his new boss.  Mikey gets himself killed right outside of Foley’s apartment.  This really doesn’t go over well with his boss.

Foley offers to take some time off, even if it means saying that he’ll in no way investigate his friend’s death.  So, of course Foley begins not investigating his friend’s death in Beverly Hills.  He even manages to shoehorn himself into a booked hotel.  Unfortunately, he’s not so lucky with Mikey’s boss, Victor Maitland.  Two minutes together and Maitland has Foley escorted out the lobby window.  This, in turn, attracts the local police, who arrest Foley.

Foley knows that Maitland is up to something.  Fortunately for Foley, a mutual friend of his and Mikey’s works for Maitland and can get him in to otherwise restricted areas.  Take, for instance, Maitland’s warehouse, where Foley finds ground coffee.  Normally, coffee wouldn’t be suspicious except this is a holding area for items that are supposed to be going through customs.  This probably means drugs.  The trick is proving it without getting thrown back in jail.

I remember someone talking about the TV show Frasier.  I think it David Hyde Pierce.  He was saying that if an actual psychiatrist did one tenth of the things that Frasier did, they’d lose their license and be thrown in jail.  Most of what happened was played for comedic effect.  Similarly, most of what Axel Foley does is to play off of the local detectives, Rosewood and Taggart.  Rosewood and Taggart are by the book and seem to only get in trouble because of Foley.

Speaking of which, I could never figure out why Alex Foley took Taggart and Rosewood to the strip club.  For those that haven’t seen the movie, I’m about to give away some minor spoilers, so you may want to skip this paragraph.  In one scene, Foley, Taggart and Rosewood are sitting in a strip club, which they went to at Foley’s insistence.  While there, two men rob the strip club.

I could never figure out if Foley somehow knew that this was going to happen or if it was dumb luck.  Why would Foley, who had never been to the area, chose a strip club that was out of the detective’s jurisdiction?  They still refuse drink, as they’re on duty.  Ok.  They probably don’t have many strip clubs in Beverly Hills, but if Foley wanted to make them uncomfortable, he probably could have found something closer.   Did Foley somehow get a tip that was later cut from the movie?  Was he giving Taggart and Rosewood two arrests to make them look good?  Was it just coincidence?

I also tend to find scenes like this movie’s opening scene to be excessive.  We have a truck crashing into pretty much every car it comes across, causing all sorts of damage.  There’s even an explosion.  I always imagine some poor guy coming out and finding his car smashed and he wouldn’t even know how it happened.  This is to say nothing of someone having something important, like their lunch, in the car.  Also, with all the cigarettes falling off the back of the truck, there’s a possibility that some kid will come across a pack or two and keep them for personal use.

It had been a while since I thought of the movie.  It started coming into rotation on Comedy Central, but would usually start just before I had to leave for work.  Because it’s available on Netflix, I was able to watch it when I wanted to and without commercials.  It’s a fun movie that was definitely a product of the 80s.  The only thing that I would say is dated would be the Michael Jackson references. A few times, we see people wearing the distinctive clothes that he made popular.  Other than that, it’s mainly the look of the movie and the appearance of Bronson Pinchot as Serge.  Most people today wouldn’t recognize him as Balki Bartokomous.  Overall, it’s a fun movie to watch.

IMDb page

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Terminal (2004)

Note  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

Tom Hanks plays Viktor Navorski. Viktor Navorski is a man without a country. He’s en route to New York City when his country’s government is overthrown. With no officially recognized country, Viktor has no legitimate passport. That’s when Viktor meets Frank Dixon. Dixon is a bureaucrat who’s on the verge of being promoted. With this promotion comes a lot of power. Dixon doesn’t want this promotion to get screwed up. Thus, Dixon has to play by the rules. Dixon also realizes that he has a problem, and that problem is named Viktor Navorski.

According to the rules, Viktor is to stay in the airport. He can’t legally go into New York City. Dixon gives Viktor some food vouchers and tells Viktor to figure something out. Viktor soon realizes that he’s going to be in for a long stay. He loses his food vouchers, but finds possible salvation in those push carts that most airports have. He can return three carts and get three quarters, which is enough for a Burger King hamburger. (Anyone who’s ever had to buy food at an airport knows that this is a bargain.) Pretty soon, Viktor is racking up the quarters, which prompts Dixon to create a special position within the airport to stop Viktor from getting those precious quarters. So begins Dixon’s war.

Navorski’s English is very limited, but he’s a quick study. He tries to apply to several of the stores within the airport, but to no avail. On a whim, he fixes up a wall in a closed-off area of the airport. This catches the attention of the crew that’s repairing that section of the airport. Not only does Viktor get a job, he gets a job that pays more that Dixon earns.

There are several other side stories. Catherine Zeta-Jones plays Amelia, a flight attendant who has a boyfriend who’s married to another woman. She knows it’s wrong (and even encourages him to stay with his wife) but just can’t tear herself away from him. She and Viktor manage to hit it off and Viktor tries to get a relationship going, but she has some very serious trust issues.

There’s also Gupta, a janitor who takes amusement in watching people slip on a wet floor. The reason it’s so amusing is that he has several of those big yellow signs very visibly positioned around the recently mopped area. People are usually too careless about their surroundings to take notice of something that obvious.

The most interesting story is the story of why Viktor is there. All anyone knows is that he carries this Planter’s Peanuts container. At first, no one asks what the container contains. Eventually, Amelia takes the initiative. Viktor reveals that his father was trying to gather signatures. I don’t recall the reason whole story behind it, but it has to do with a group of jazz musicians. It was very important to Viktor’s father. He managed to get all but one of the signatures.

Viktor is in New York City trying to get that one last signature. That’s why it’s so important that Viktor also play by the rules. Dixon wants Viktor to leave figuring that Viktor will become someone else’s problem. If Viktor is caught, he becomes the problem of the federal government. If Viktor is not caught, then he simply wanders NYC like any other undocumented immigrant. Little does Dixon know that Viktor wants to return home, even if it means waiting the nine months that Viktor eventually has to stay.

WARNING: Anyone who doesn’t want to know how the movie ends should stop here. If you continue, don’t blame me for ruining the movie for you. You were warned.

Amelia gets Viktor a one-day visa so that he can go to where the remaining musician is. Unfortunately, things don’t work out between them. She goes back to her married boyfriend. However, Viktor does get his autograph. Upon entering a cab, he tells the driver that he’s going home.


I didn’t feel like there was any sense of completion with the story. (At least not in the sense that I would have expected.) It seemed like a short story that was interrupted and put on hold for nine months. It was absolutely not what I expected, but that’s not to say that the movie was bad. Viktor was a man that had everything taken away from him and Tom Hanks was able to portray him in such a way that I could say that I would have done the same thing in his position. (Several other people also told me that I probably would have done the same thing.)

There’s a lot of product placement. Notice the prominent use of Burger King that I mentioned before. Those that are observant will also notice Starbucks and Baja Fresh. (For those that don’t know, Baja Fresh is a fast-food restaurant that sells tacos. I’ll be writing a review of it shortly. I’ll be placing links for Starbucks and Burger King below.) It wasn’t too distracting and in some cases, such as Viktor’s job search, can be excused.

The movie was definitely different. I wish that there were more movies like this one. There were no amazing action scenes. The movie didn’t try to awe people with its amazing special effects. So there was some slapstick here and there, but the bulk of the movie was driven by the story. Fortunately, it had a very good story.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Passion of the Christ (2004)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

Normally, I’d put a spoiler warning here, but I doubt that there are many people that don’t know how the movie will end. Even those, like myself, that haven’t read the Bible know that Jesus was crucified. Everyone knows that this movie is about the last hours of the life of Jesus, so it should come as no surprise that he’s crucified at the end of the movie.

Before the movie came out, I had heard a lot about this movie. Mel Gibson really wanted to make a movie about the Jesus’ final hours. Gibson really wanted to make something that was inspirational and accurate. When it opened in theaters, those that had seen it fell into two groups. One group felt that the movie was inspirational and accurate and were moved by the movie. The second group felt that it was anti-Semitic and unfairly portrayed the Jews. This is why I decided to wait until the movie came out on DVD to see it. I couldn’t see myself sitting in a theater full of people that were driven either to tears or rage. I didn’t want to put myself in the middle of that.

Now that I’ve seen it, I can’t say that I really see what the big deal is. I’m not religious. I’d classify myself somewhere between atheist and agnostic. You might be asking why I saw the movie if I feel this way. Feeling as I do is no excuse not to see the movie. I figured that since I have Netflix, which is a video rental service paid for by the month, I might as well watch it and see for myself what the big deal was. Now that I’ve seen the movie, I can’t say that I fit into either of the two groups that I mentioned before.

The people most likely to be moved by the movie are those that identify with Christianity. This isn’t to say that a non-Christian can’t take something away from it. However, I don’t really understand much of the mythology. I did find certain aspects of the movie to be confusing. There were a lot of unnamed characters that would be recognizable to someone who’s read the bible. (The Devil is one example.)

However, there are many things that someone could take from this movie. There are several flashbacks in the movie, one of which involves Jesus telling his followers to love your enemies. I also feel that many of the scenes could deliver the same emotional impact regardless of religious beliefs or lack thereof. For instance, seeing Jesus accused, brought to Pilate and eventually tortured and crucified still had an impact on me, even if I didn’t interpret it the same way that a Christian might. Just because you’re not religious doesn’t mean that this movie holds no value for you.

I can understand not being interested in the movie, as well. This movie isn’t for everyone. There is a lot of violence and gore, which are both too much for children. The scenes where Jesus is being whipped leave nothing to the imagination. I also don’t think that children will be able to understand the movie, even if they are raised as Christians. This is a very complex and intense subject.

As for the anti-Semitic aspect, I didn’t get the impression that the claims had any merit. The major claim was that the Jews were shown as the ones wanting to crucify Jesus. Showing that in a major motion picture might incite or perpetuate hatred of Jews. I don’t think so. Instead of making Jews out to be villains, I felt that the villains happened to be Jewish.

Yes, I’m dealing with semantics, but bear with me. In the movie, the Jews want to crucify Jesus (who was a rabbi, mind you) for insisting that he’s the Son of God. According to Roman law, the Jews weren’t allowed to execute anyone, so they had to go to the local Roman official, Pontius Pilate, for permission. The official wanted no part of it and sent it to King Herod since it was really his jurisdiction. Herod wanted no part of it, either, so Jesus was set free. Jesus is sent back to Pilate, who is in a real bind. If he condemns Jesus to death, one part of the population will revolt. If he doesn’t, he’ll have another part of the population revolting and Caesar has made it clear that there are to be no uprisings. Pilate does the best thing he can, which is to punish Jesus, but not kill him.

It’s kind of like saying that when the guards beat Jesus, it’s an anti-police message because the guards beat him to within an inch of his life. It’s not only police brutality, but it’s also state-sanctioned police brutality. You could just as well say that it’s calling the government prejudiced because Pilate is willing to let the guards attack Jesus. You could also say that it’s calling the government apathetic because both Pilate and Herod want no part of it. Since this is taken from the Bible, you might as well call the New Testament anti-Semitic, as well. I just don’t see it.

Now I have to decide if I’d recommend the movie. This is one of the few movies that I can’t give a definite yes or no and is case in point for why I don’t like the fact that I’m required to give a yes or a no as to recommending the movie to a friend. Ultimately, I think faith is going to be the compelling factor for most people. I can’t say that all Christians will want to see it or that all non-Christians won’t.

However, if a friend of mine was having trouble making up their mind, I’d tell my friend to see it. The movie was done well, even though I probably missed a great deal of it and I wasn’t really impressed by the special effects. Subtitles were a big plus. I wouldn’t have been able to watch more than five minutes without subtitles. However, if I had a friend that didn’t want to watch it, I wouldn’t try to get them to watch it. I know plenty of people that definitely wouldn’t like it, either because of the religious basis of the movie or because of the gore.

I personally give the movie three stars out of five. It was a good movie, but I didn’t think it was great. I don’t regret having seen the movie. I was curious about it and I figured that if I’m going to like or not like a movie, I should at least see it. As for whether or not you should see it, I leave that decision to you. 

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Timestalkers (1987)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

WARNING:  I’m going to be picking apart this movie.  This includes giving away major details, including the ending.  If you’re not into that sort of stuff, you may want to watch the movie before reading the review.

I tend to remember the movies of my childhood as being better.  I seem to recall the graphics and style as being somewhat decent compared to what I’ve seen as of late.  Yes, some movies do get remastered.  Yes, we do tend to be selective about things we like.  Yes, there were a lot of crappy movies made in any era.  When I saw Timestalkers, I knew it had a certain made-for-TV feel to it.  I later found out that it was actually a made-for-TV movie.  This explains why the film quality and script weren’t particularly that good.

Don’t get me wrong.  We do have some talent here.  The movie stars William Devane as Scott McKenzie.  He’s a father that loses his wife and children early in the movie.  This leads him to stay at home mostly when he’s not at work.  This leads his friend, General Joe Brodsky, to take him to an auction of Old West items.  (The General is played by John Ratzenberger.)  The two of them bid on a single lot, each taking a chest of items.  Joe finds some spurs he like, but Scott gets an interesting photo.  In it, a man is seen with a .357 Magnum, which hadn’t been introduced when the picture was taken.  (He has the picture tested, of course, and it really is that old.)

What does Scott do?  He writes a paper that looks like it came from the 80s, all right, asking his class how such a modern gun could have wound up in a photo that old.  The class is saved by the bell, which allows Georga Crawford to introduce herself.  (Georgia Crawford is played by Lauren Hutton.)  She’s very interested in the photo.  In fact, she’s the only person, other than Scott, to have more than a passing interest in it.

The two of them manage to find the spot where the picture was taken.  (Apparently, it’s not that far from where Scott lives.)  Well, as it happens, Georgia is from the future and she has a little diamond thingy that lets her go back to about when the picture was taken.  There, she finds out that this evil-looking guy is in town and he was asking questions.  Georgia is able to find him.  He sees her and chases her back to town, where she returns to the present.  He’s able to track her and follow her back to just after when she returns.  Georgia and Scott drive off just in time to not even notice that he’s shooting a gun at her.

To make a long story short, Georgia tells Scott that she’s from the future.  The evil-looking guy is Dr. Joseph Cole.  He worked with her father to create a time-travel device.  The two get into an argument.  Georgia and Scott figure out that Cole is in the past to kill Georgia’s great-great-(x23)-great-great-grandfather means no Georgia’s father to stand in his way.

Several things bother me about the ending, and yes, I am going to give away more details about the ending.  First, why go back so far to kill someone’s ancestor?  I suppose you might say that if you can travel in time effortlessly, going back a few generations is as easy as going back a few centuries, but it does present a few problems.  First, how do you know that this really is the right great-great-(x23)-great-great-grandfather?  For all you know, someone was adopted along the way.  Heck.  Several people could have been adopted along the way.

Also, how do you know that the ancestor in question isn’t also the ancestor or someone else?  You could share a common distant great-great-grandparent somewhere.  For all you know, you’d also be eliminating yourself.  Going that far back would probably influence a good deal of the population.  I’ve noticed that a lot of movies, non-sci-fi included, tend to have lineages that don’t branch.  Someone has one child, who goes on to have one child, who goes on to have one child and so on down the generations.  The truth is that someone along the line is bound to have several children and not necessarily boys.  Someone that far back in Georgia’s family tree is actually much more likely to have a different last name, which brings me back to my original point:  Going that far back in her family tree makes it harder to trace with any degree of certainty.

Another thing I noticed was that at the end, one of the time-travel diamonds was thrown to the ground.  Several horses walked over it until it was buried, which gave me the impression that it was supposed to be lost to the ages.  You’d think that Georgia would be certain to pick it up so as not to risk someone from the past altering history.  Scott seemed somewhat motivated to go to the future with her, so she knows that at least one person would want it and know where to look for it.  (It was never stated one way or the other, so it’s entirely possible that she did pick it up.)

This is what I had to put up with as a child.  Granted, it is on the low-budget end, but I do remember seeing things like this. I could see liking this when it first came out, but wondering why as I got older.  The graphics aren’t particularly good, which you might expect from a made-for-TV movie.  When someone is holding the diamond, you can tell that a static image was laid over the footage,  (There are one or two scenes where it’s obvious.  Also notice that you never see a close-up of someone operating the device.)

This is one of those movies that I’m glad I didn’t buy.  I was able to get it streaming on Netflix.  If you can get it streaming, I’d say give it a shot.  It’s only 100 minutes.  If you see it in the remainder bin at a Wal-Mart, you might want to think twice about buying it unless it’s part of some 50-movie set or something.  At the end of the movie, I was left wondering. Was it all a dream?  Will Scott ever see Georgia again?  Why did I sit through the entire thing, anyway? 

Friday, January 13, 2017

Stripped (2014)

I’ve always started my day with the comics.  I grew up with The Far Side and Calvin and Hobbes.  I now my day with Zits and Fox Trot.  I never gave much thought to them.  They’ve always been there as long as I was old enough to read the newspaper.  The future may not be as certain.  Traditional comics are dependant on a syndicate and, by extension, newspapers.  News of newspapers folding worries comic artists.  Comics, at least the ones you read in the paper, may end up going down with a sinking ship.

The documentary starts with traditional comics, like the ones I mentioned above.   There are interviews with Jeff Keane and Jim Davis.  We even get to hear the voice of Bill Watterson, who drew Calvin and Hobbes.  (This was the first time he allowed his voice to be recorded for an interview.)  There’s an explanation of how someone has a career in comics.  It’s traditionally done through a syndicate.  (The artist does the artwork and the syndicate handles the business end of it, usually taking about half of the proceeds.)

There’s stuff on the history of comics, going back to how it started.  The film focuses more on the future, as many of the artists don’t know what will become of newspapers.  The film does go into Web comics, like Penny Arcade.   Making a Web comic not only requires the artistic skill, but needs the artist to promote and monetize their own work.  (Advertising and merchandizing are the two big options, but there are other ways.)

Will the Web kill comics?  I doubt it.  I may have mentioned in another review that a manager and I were talking about maps.  He said that GPS was killing off mapmakers.  I didn’t think that was necessarily true.  People still needed maps.  People that wanted maps now want them in a different form.  It’s simply a matter of learning how to deliver your content.

Those that do traditional comics don’t seem to want to do anything Web based, as many of them aren’t that business savvy.  Ironically, Web comics aren’t bound by the constraints that bothered Watterson.  I’ve been reading xkcd for a few years now and have seen some rather large ones.  Those artists that take their strips online could expand the look of their strips if they wanted to.  It’s difficult to say if the transition would be easy.  Many strips have a following, but that following would have to be maintained.

TV didn’t kill radio.  However, radio looks nothing like it did 100 years ago, or even 50 years ago.  Programs made the transition from radio to TV and the radio stations found a new way to get an audience.  Again, those that learn how to adapt will survive.

I still miss The Far Side and Calvin and Hobbes.  I remember seeing an article on Facebook that said that Watterson was making a new strip every day and shredding it.  I was so saddened and shocked until I realized that it was an article on The Onion.   I hope I can look forward to Zits and Fox Trot for a long time to come.