Saturday, April 28, 2007

More (predominantly) Japan based comic strips

Here's the latest in my batch of copycat comics (courtesy of the amazing XKCD). Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

InDesign CS2: Clumsy and Inconsistent

But still a huge improvement over Quark XPress 4.1.

The day finally came that my office joined the 21st Century. While the majority of us have been piloting flying cars in outer space for the last 7 years while wearing silver suits that are just a tad too baggy round the legs and drinking our food through some kind of futuristic space straw, everyone around me has been stuck sitting at desks operating the archaic OS9, because it's still considered a print industry standard. No more though - we are at last in the process of upgrading to OS X (that's pronounced OS ten, just like its cousins Windows tempy and Linyaten) bundled with the complete Adobe Creative Suite CS2. And the single most significant application among them as far as my own workflow is concerned is InDesign, Adobe's direct challenge to Quark.

For the past few weeks I've been exploring InDesign, trying to work out how we can get it to work for us, and my conclusions are double edged. On the one hand it is a huge improvement over even the latest version of Quark which has all the elegance of Quark 4.1 run in Classic. Simple features such as transparency and drop shadow support, the story editor, tables, nested objects and object styles have been a constant source of bewildered stares as the people around me try to figure out how they ever worked without them. On the other hand, there are numerous inconsistencies and issues outlined below that can be both frustrating and baffling, and I would really like to see improved on by CS3. (As CS3 is already available, I invite comments from people that have direct experience).

Page Jumps
Trying to keep track of all the "see page xx" references can be a colossal task that the software should really be doing for you. It's a logical extension of the index and contents feature and should be included. A $200 USD third party plug-in that does this and nothing more is quite insulting.

Table styles
I like the way that InDesign interconnects paragraph and character style sheets, and object styles are a gift from the heavens. Adding table styles to the collection would be perfection.

Table borders
These are confusing as hell to set. It's like they copied Excel, but deliberately sabotaged the interface to avoid software patent infringement. I've been fiddling with these for nearly a month and still cannot do the simplest thing without a lot of trial and error.

Table cell auto-expansion to accommodate anchored objects
Doesn't happen. Anchored objects in table cells just hang over into the next cell below, meaning you have to set the cell height manually. Once you do that, you may as well throw the whole idea of consistency of appearance out the window.

Text wrap on anchored objects doesn't work within table cells
It just doesn't. Why does Adobe think that images anchored within tables should be exempt from text wrapping under all circumstances? Does having text appear behind graphics so it cannot be read satisfy some need I haven't thought of?

Text wrap on anchored objects doesn't affect the line it's anchored to
The help files mention this is the case, but doesn't explain why. I for one cannot think of a single situation where this would be useful, but without even having begun serious production I have come across countless situations where the text wrap becoming effective from the line it's anchored to would be essential. Instead I have to find workarounds, which I shouldn't need to do.

Text wraps around embedded clipping paths beyond the boundaries of the container box
WTF. That's all I have to say on the matter.

Object styles apply to grouped items individually
They should apply to the group as a whole. This seriously detracts from the value of object styles.

Missing features from paragraph styles
Too many to mention all, but stroke settings on outlines, stroke colour on automated bullets/numbering, and removal of settings from child styles (e.g. a font is set in a child style, but you want to remove the setting so the font reflects that of the parent style) are at the top of my list.

Expand appearance
Entering Illustrator territory here, but InDesign could use this too, especially as it supports converting text to outlines.

Half-hearted support for callouts
We've got the lines and the little circles to go on the ends, but there's no way to put a white outline around it.

Edit original doesn't work properly
If the original is an image file associated with Preview, then that's the application it opens with. There should be a choice of application to edit with. Furthermore, if you edit original with an embedded file using say Photoshop, hitting save brings up the Save dialog. You cannot save it back into the document.

Phantom fonts
Mysterious non-existent fonts that appear in Preflight as problematic but are not detected by the Find Font feature. Woooooooo! These are especially apparent when pulling data in from Quark 3J. Likewise non-existent fonts that can be freely used, and it doesn't tell you they're non-existent until you go to package it. Wooooooo!

Doesn't play nicely with Illustrator CS2
When exporting a page as EPS, white boundary lines appear around objects requiring raster effects.

Still no view orientation
This actually applies to Photoshop and Illustrator too, and I've been asking for this feature now for years. Why is there no way to orientate the view? Often when you're working on a package design, large sections are upside down because of the physics of expanding a package into a flat sheet. I don't want to do large sections of design work standing on my head. Allowing the view angle to be changes is as obvious as having a zoom function.

These are just for starters. I'm sure I'll be expanding this list before too very long.

Flotsam & Jetsam part 2

As promised, the last in my flotsam & jetsam series, here is a classic unheard of series from the classic unheard of series "This Morning with Richard not Judy" (以降 TMWRNJ) called "Sunday Heroes." This is quite possibly the most brilliantly childish critique of the teachings of Jesus ever made. It's also very quotable, most likely by design.


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Flotsam & Jetsam part 1

Before this becomes habit, I'm going to make this the second last random YouTube I post for a while.

I originally saw this back in the mid 90s on the wireless and wished to my deity of choice or lack of that I'd taped it because the final line now owns a luxury condo with a beautiful sea view, rooftop pool, and ample parking, in my head. I was going to try and do my own wedding video up like this, and recommend it to a regular reader who's fiancée I'm sure would be thrilled, but then it's really not the done thing is it.

This was a shining nugget of gold in an otherwise stinking pile of horseshit.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Japan based comic strips

Disclaimer: I in no way deny that the style of both drawing and humour has been directly derived from the most amusing comics at XKCD. Given the Creative Commons licence that the author uses, I am of the opinion that he would take the blatantly obvious similarities as a compliment! I also find it highly unlikely that the author will understand any of these jokes as the topic matter is very very different to his (and that of course is where the humour is), though I'll gladly explain if he wishes to get in touch.

That out of the way, I now present my own sarcastic take on a number of issues I honestly doubt anybody will understand.

Alright, I can't draw for shit. Or write.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Genki English on NHK

To many expats in Japan, especially those that purport to teach “serious” English, “Genki English” has become something of a generic term of non-endearment for the style of teaching that focuses on dressing in a clown/bear suit, dancing in front of the kids, and generally trying to play entertainer at the expense of any kind of actual learning potential. The original Genki English however were really not all that much like that at all, as this NHK documentary attests. As promised over a pint or five in Shibuya a week or so back, mate Will of Nihongojouzu and former member of Genki English has had pride in his achievements enough to put these up on YouTube, and I think there's something we can all learn here.

This doesn't mean I'm through with the Genki Richard Photoshops. Not by a long shot!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

I've been linked to by

Judging by the sudden influx of visits, it seems the link is now up. Jason "I got sued by Apple and lived" O'Grady has posted an article talking about the Apple advertisements I translated.

If you've just strolled in from Powerpage, click the Apple tag to see the original postings (not much text content), or the Rahmens tab if you're interested in other works by the same actors and production team.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Paraffin and Soda-Stream anyone?

For those of you not familiar with happoshu, it's an ungodly concoction made to taste like beer, but without containing enough malt for it to actually be classified as beer. It's a sneaky tactic to get around the extortionately high tax that only applies to beer itself, so it sells for approximately two thirds the price. The very obvious downside is that the malt content is less than one third that of beer, which considering what an important ingredient it is, means it's packed full of chemical flavourings. It tastes revolting, and gives you a surreal hangover like you can't imagine. It goes without saying that a beer lover like myself will not allow this un-beer past my lips, nor indeed the threshold of my house. There's nothing worse when having a house party, when somebody obliviously or maliciously purchases a six pack of happoshu, sticks it in the fridge, and then proceeds to drink the expensive real beer that somebody else has paid for. You don't get away with that kind of cheapskatery in MY fridge, which is why my house now has a NO HAPPOSHU directive (see photo). Those of you that are already familiar with happoshu can skip this paragraph.

As if happoshu wasn't already bad enough, along came the next generation of evil called "sonota no zasshu (2)" ("Other miscellaneous (2)") boasting less malt than ever before! Malt content is entirely replaced with some kind of pea or soy protein. Yummy! It tastes as bad as it sounds, only worse. But the worse is yet to come, or more specifically, has just arrived in the form of a rather appropriately named beverage called "Style Free." This not only contains less than 25% fermentable malt content, but additionally contains no sugar. Although it's been a few years since I attended science classes, I was always led to believe that yeast required sugar in order to both produce the alcohol and carbonate the beer. If this indeed contains no sugar, then one can only assume that it's made from an artificial beer flavoured syrup laced with paraffin, and then gotten busy with the fizzy via a Soda-Stream syphon (unless of course they mean that only the amount of sugar the yeast required to turn the chemical laden beer flavoured syrup into a cocktail was added, but I'm not convinced that sounds any better). I honestly can't think of anything I'd want to drink less. Actually, I just did think of something, and I'm off to the toilet now to throw up.

So we have something that is already evil beyond words, but then they take that extra step to make it just that tiny bit worse. A variety of images come to mind that could be quite effective as advertisements. We could have Adolf Hitler out in his ranch sniping at cute baby kittens with a shotgun, while enjoying a can of Style Free. Or possibly Osama Bin Laden relaxing over a can of Style Free with his new associates, the Clu Clux Clan. Or how about Jim Jones enjoying a refreshing can of Style Free while pissing into a vat of Flavor Aid™. The possibilities are absolutely limitless.

A wise man once said that anybody who's willing to sacrifice freedom for a little security deserves neither. I think that's true here too - anybody willing to sacrifice the great flavour and purity of beer for a little saved money deserves to spend their head down the toilet, for the rest of their lives.