I was diving into some object files in the library at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth today as part of my research for a Sunday gallery talk I am giving there this June, and as I was packing up to leave, I spied a book titled The Comics on the shelf adjacent from me. As I am teaching a class on comics history at the moment, I'm always on the lookout for older sources, so I mosied over to see which book it was. As I perused the shelf, I was surprised to not only find a printing of Mark James Estren's A History of Underground Comics, but also, just beyond that, several books on Surrealism, beginning with Anna Balakian's Surrealism: Road to the Absolute.
As longtime readers of this blog surely know (all two of you, one of which being myself), my primary area of research is Surrealism. So, considering the particularities of the Modern library's collection and the Dewey decimal system here, my two specific scholarly areas were directly by each other on the shelf!
I wanted to hug the shelf, so I instead took this picture.
So true, so very true...
Astute observations by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, panel from Young Romance, Issue 18, February 1950.
Read the entire story online at Comic Book Plus.
Stumbled across this cartoon from an 1888 issue of Punch critical of Japonisme being an influence on Royal Academy artists. Historically interesting, if wonky art history jokes are your cup of tea. God knows I love wonky art history jokes.
My replacement Nexus 7 arrived in the mail today, and I was excited to get it up and running with the apps and settings I had on the first one I received last week, before the screen issues began. Now, for lovers of schadenfreude, get ready: upon pressing the power button, the Google logo appeared, and then the screen went black, then the Google logo appeared, then the screen went black...ad infinitum. The device was stuck in the initial boot sequence. Assuming it might be low on power, I plugged it in, only for the screen to go black and the tablet not respond to ANY button pushes.
To quote my life hero, Charlie Brown: *sigh*.
Look, I usually have nothing but positive things to say about Google, and Android in particular. I've had three Android phones, finally settling on a Nexus S, and while all of them have had issues, those have paled against the functionality of the OS itself and were usually hardware related. It apparently seems to be the same situation with my very first tablet, the Nexus 7.
I am not here to melodramatically bitch and moan about how awful this device is, or assume it's Google or the device manufacturer's (Asus) fault. In fact, I want to go over what was fantastic about the Nexus 7 for the short time I had it working, and then offer some pointed criticism.
My initial tablet, when it arrived last week, had a nice heft to it, a build quality that, initially, reminded me of the HTC Aria I owned: not at all heavy, but solid in way that suggested nice engineering and design. The screen size is, for my purposes, just right: reading comics on it is glorious and the images were sharp and crisp. Reading eBooks, particularly, was a delight, and I was seeing a future without my eInk Kindle Keyboard as the Nexus 7 filled that role nicely.
With just a few days to adjust to the Nexus 7, I found myself doing much more on it than on my phone or laptop, as it conveniently was set beside me as I was sitting on the couch hanging out with the family or while toodling about town. The seven-inch form factor was perfect for this and, honestly, I found myself surprised how much I was unconsciously using it for. Most of the other benefits I discovered are not related to the device itself, but to the new Android version, Jellybean. I found Android Beam -- which uses the NFC chips in Android devices to send files, websites, contacts, and anything else on one screen to another device -- incredibly useful for transferring things from my Nexus S to the tablet. Google Now, which generates user-specific information based on the data you input into Google Calendar, Maps, Search, Contacts and so on, is initially creepy then useful, and I even turned back on my search history to get more out of it. The first time it alerts you to leave for an appointment (in my case, my daughter's ballet class) based on traffic conditions, you feel like you can confidently step into your rocket car and speed off with Elroy because THE FUTURE HAS ARRIVED.
And, yet....sigh. My first tablet arrived on Friday afternoon, July 20th. By Sunday night I began to notice that the slightly washed out appearance of my screen was not just due to environmental lighting conditions or the back-light settings as I had assumed the day before. By Monday morning, when I turned the screen on after it being unused for awhile, everything was far too light, greyed out. After about ten minutes things would sharpen up and darken, but it was clear something wasn't right. Moreover, the screen would flicker periodically, even when seeming to work properly, and some images from widgets, text, and UI elements would seem to "burn" momentarily into the screen's background as I flicked between homescreens or apps.
Despite the problems, here are some more positives for the Nexus 7, particularly when purchased directly through the Play Store: first, if you fear that, as with most Google products, getting a live person to talk to is impossible, rest assured that a number is conveniently given to you on your Google Wallet receipt page (by clicking the "Contact Google Inc." link). Second, the person I reached was knowledgeable, helpful, if not a little tired; it was somewhat clear she had been dealing with customer inquiries all day. I am not sure why, exactly, but several online news outlets have described Google Customer Service as poor, most notably Charles Arthur writing for The Guardian. This was not my experience, and I had a similarly good one the second time I contacted them this afternoon about the replacement device that would not boot. So, the person-to-person customer support was, in my case, fantastic. Kudos to Google for this, and it reminded me very much of my positive experience when contacting the dedicated support line for my first-gen Amazon Kindle way back in the stone age. Where it all falls short, though, is the return/replacement process itself. Before sending out a replacement, Google requires it to be re-ordered, which results in a hold on the account it is purchased through for the cost of the device. This hold is only taken off without payment once the defective device arrives and the problems are confirmed by Asus (the manufacturer's) staff; if they conclude no error is found, the replacement device is charged to your account and the original defective device is sent back as is, resulting in two tablets (one faulty, one -- presumably -- functional). This is a very problematic way to handle a return/replacement, described by one commenter as "Byzantine."
As is our wont, such errors prompt one to the usual searches online to see if the problem is unique to one's device or more widespread. Perhaps those of us with problematic units are more vocal in forums and blogs, but device errors and problems definitely seem to be a problem. Several tech news outlets have noted the growing sounds of disgruntled Nexus 7 owners coddling their dead devices and/or going through the machinations of the replacement process, but I've found the reporting on this from the technocrati limited to say the least. If the first Google support person I spoke with was accurate, only 2% of devices were showing screen issues. Still, I can't help wondering if this is becoming more of a widespread problem as the first production batches from Asus are arriving in customers' hands, with defects not seen by reviewers who might have received earlier, presumably better tested units.
Despite it all, the Google Customer Service Rep I spoke with this evening was very gracious, and audibly embarrassed that I had received a replacement unit for a defective tablet that was even MORE defective. Still, as she told me all they could do was send me out a *third* unit -- resulting in yet another hold charge of $199 on my account until this second defective unit arrives back to Asus for confirmation -- I kind of felt like Charlie Brown being assured by Lucy she wouldn't move the football this time. If my third unit arrives broken or breaks quickly, it will be the symbolic and emotional equivalent of falling flat on my back again as the ball is yanked away at the last second.
I mean, I know kids can get hernias, but was this ad really reaching a core demographic?
And because I'm a sucker for anything that touts itself as "Patented," click HERE to view Piper Brace Co.'s filed patent for this hernia truss.