Surf’s Up Dept.

December 29th, 2008 | Posted in Surf's Up Dept.

I’m busy working on a few jobs right now, but here are some tidbits from the last week of interest around the interwebby:

Who Blotches the Watchmen Dept.


Fox, that’s who.

On Christmas Eve Judge Gary Allen Feess issued a ruling in favor of Fox in the rights dispute case over the new Watchmen movie that is supposed to premiere on March 3rd. Fox alleged that they owned the rights to produce and distribute a Watchmen movie, and that producer Larry Gordon was breaking a contract between himself and Fox guaranteeing those rights by producing the Zack Synder film and distributing it through Warner Bros. Fanboys the world over are scribbling in their secret journals and preparing to don trench coats, lift-shoes and ink blot masks seeking retribution (that’s a Watchmen reference, for you non-geeks).

According to this article on, Feess doesn’t seem to think much of Gordon’s honesty. Fox was apparently able to prove they did contact Warner Bros. prior to the film’s production in an effort to settle the matter, but were ignored. Gordon claimed he was “unable to remember” his agreement with Fox.

As bad as this might seem for fans of the graphic novel like myself who have been waiting for decades for a movie to be made, the article linked above is right when it points out this is actually a good thing overall. It means that the courts still protect the copyrights of studios and honor agreements properly. It benefits no one when these things are trampled underfoot. Do not fear, Watchmen rubes… the movie will come out. There is too much money to be made for WB not to settle with Fox and get Dr. Manhattan, Rorschach and co. on the silver screen this winter.

A Gang of Idiots Grows in Brooklyn

Actually they were from the Bronx, but who’s counting? Check out this awesome picture from the New York Times Magazine article “The Lives They Lived”:

Picture from the VandenBergh/Elder Family

That’s Al Jaffee and Will Elder having lunch in the cafeteria of their high school in 1939. The picture was part of an article remembering the lives of some notable folks who passed on in 2008 (Will’s gone but Al is still kickin’!). Did the other kids in that cafeteria have any idea that sitting among them were two of the most brilliant and innovative creative geniuses the world of cartooning and visual humor would ever see? No, they thought they were weirdos… that’s why they are all by themselves. If I had a time machine one of my stops would definitely be that cafeteria to have lunch with those guys. If you want to blow your mind even further, it is very likely the guy taking that picture was Harvey Kurtzman, another high school pal. That’s THREE of the most brilliant and innovative creative geniuses the world of cartooning and visual humor would ever see, in case you are counting.

The Apple Falls Far from the Tree Dept.


Last week Apple announced that next month’s Macworld Conference & Expo, happening Jan. 5th -9th in San Fransisco, CA, will be the last one they participate in and that CEO Steve Jobs will not be doing a keynote address there. The annual San Fransisco event has been considered THE major Mac tradeshow and has been going on since 1985. Apple cites “reduced need to appear at trade shows” as the reason for the decision. Apple Insider reports that “sources within Apple claim the move is strictly a matter of de-emphasizing the event and not the sign of any health problems that would keep Jobs from presenting a keynote.”

Personally I think that stinks of spin and a very bad business decision.

First off, the spin: regardless of their decision to not appear in future shows, there are only two reasons Steve Jobs won’t be delivering a keynote address THIS year:

  1. He can’t
  2. He won’t.

I don’t buy the latter. Why won’t he? He doesn’t have a few hours one afternoon to pimp his company’s newest products at a major trade show? It’s not the travel… he LIVES in San Fransisco! It’s not the preparation… he’s got thousands of employees who could prepare the entire address for him (somehow I don’t think Steve does his own multimedia presentation work). Nope, it’s because he can’t. His health has been a question mark for some time. I think it’s obvious it’s worse than Apple wants to admit and he couldn’t do the address without revealing that. Really that is neither here nor there anyway. Someday Apple will have to do business without Steve Jobs as their figurehead… they might as well get started. Let the man scale back and retire if he’s having health issues.

Second, the bad business decision. Maybe they feel they no longer need to do trade shows, with the proliferation of their Apple Stores and online presence, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t. What has set Apple apart from Microsoft and hardware companies like Dell, etc. is their clinging to the image of the small market, personal chic brand. Even as they keep getting bigger and bigger market share, and as they dominate some markets like personal music players and smartphones, they have still insisted they are the laid back and cooler little brother who has the personal touch. Their entire ad campaigns are built around this notion. Removing themselves from personal interaction like trade shows will reinforce the growing perception that they are becoming another soulless corporate monstrosity. Considering the prices they expect people to pay for their products in order to keep their glossy white Apple Stores afloat, they shouldn’t have any qualms about spending a few bucks to keep the little personal interaction they still have with the masses and taking advantage of the publicity and buzz that surround the announcements they make at these large shows. Hundreds of live bloggers and maybe hundreds of thousands of consumers watching live? You can’t buy that kind of publicity.

If Apple keeps going down this path, they will become like Willy Wonka and his chocolate factory, with wonderful toys rolling out of the factory but out of touch with the consumer, or at least the consumer feeling out of touch with them. You have to wonder just how long the toys will stay wonderful if that happens.


  1. I personally lost a little faith in Apple when I first heard that Jobs would not be there, and I was a little mad and ticked off when I heard this will be apples last show. Why? Because for apple nerds like myself Macworld was like christmas for me and like I said I have lost a little faith in apple. Oh well, as long as they keep making amazing products, i can live with it.

  2. JWB1 says:

    Program note! Tuesday’s Entertainment Tonight will have a feature (maybe including some new scenes) on Watchman. Every new film clip really looks great! As opposed to the comics inpired film in theaters right now. I’ve got a couple days off, so I’ll try and catch The Spirit. I love Eisner’s classic stories, so I feel I should give it a look. Perhaps my low expectations will work to the movie’s advantage.


New profile pic courtesy of my self-caricature for the Scott Maiko penned article “Gotcha! Mug Shots of Common (but Despicable) Criminals” from MAD 550

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