Thursday, June 20, 2013

Comics on the Nook

It's been a while since I wrote about reading comic books on digital media. I stopped buying comic books years ago when I discovered Marvel's digital site. That gives me access to thousands of comic books without having to store them. They are also easier to read that way and, let's face it, modern comic books are not going to have any real collector value for decades.

When I got a tablet I tried Marvel's Android app. It was a major disappointment. It recognized my digital account but didn't let me access the digital content. The app was only for selling individual, digital issues.

That changed recently with Marvel's new Unlimited app. That is an Android implementation of the PC experience complete with smart panels.

I tried this on two tablets, a stock Android 7" tablet (actually a Nook HD with a  replacement version of Android) and a Nood HD+ using B&N's version of Android.

I am very pleased with the experience. The colors on recent comics jump off of the page. The smart panels make it easy to read comic books on a 7" screen. Performance is fairly good - possibly better than on a PC. There is also an option to store up to 6 comics for off-line reading.

It is not perfect. The app defaults to full page and you have to change it to Smart Panels. The PC-based reader shows you other books in the same series while the app does not. Also, on the HD+, it is hard to advance to the next panel. I don't have this problem on the HD so I suspect that the custom version of Android that the Nook runs causes this problem.

All things considered, this will probably be me preferred reading platform from now on.

A few words about the Nook line. I originally got a Nook Simple Touch as my ebook reader because it supports more formats and got top reviews. I still take it with me on trips because of the long battery life.

The Nook Color was a nice ebook reader that also had tablet functions. I used a chip from Root My Nook to make it into a stock Android tablet and was very pleased. The Android Nook app is as good as the native reader so I didn't lose anything by the change.

The Nook HD has upgraded hardware and an improved version of Android. A recent upgrade allows you to access Google's app store (Google Play) and install your favorite apps. That makes it into a tablet with a built-in ebook reader. It isn't perfect. There are inconsistencies like the back button moving around but it is useable. Also, a few apps that I like will not run on it. My biggest complaint is that I cannot change the size of the system fonts which are tiny. Facebook on the 9" HD+ uses a smaller font than on my rooted 7" HD.

Root My Nook has versions of Android 4.2 for the HD and HD+. This is really impressive. The Nooks are high-end tablets at a bargain price (unless you really want a camera or GPS). Even after adding the price of the chip, they are still a good value.

After trying both of them, the 7" HD is a great choice for a tablet to carry around with you. It is light weight and the screen is big enough for most things although I do have to zoom on some web pages.

The HD+ is heavier and harder to hold but it is still a very light-weight tablet. It is meant for magazines. I tried an ebook version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. On the HD I had to zoom and pan around. On the HD I could read it as is.

Barnes & Noble has been having sales on the Nooks, offering them for fire sale prices. I suggest snatching one.

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Classic Superman

There are all sorts of analyses of Superman based on the new movie. I'm going to look at the classic Superman - the Silver Age one. This is a little complicated because the character was developed by multiple writers, many of whom had little knowledge of science.

Officially Superman's strength and invulnerability came from his planet of origin, Krypton. It was described as being so massive that its gravity was many timed Earth's. That was fine when Superman was jumping tall buildings but it doesn't explain other facets of Krypton. I don't think anyone ever said it but the gravity on Krypton must have been so immense that it collapsed all matter on the planet into a new form. That includes both animate and inanimate objects. That is why Superman can only be cut by metal from his home world.

The other source for Superman's powers is the Earth's yellow sun. This puts out energy on some unknown wavelength which can pass through the entire Earth at night but are intercepted by Superman's body. These rays give him extra abilities such as flight and X-Ray vision. The mechanism for this is unexplained.

Most later writers simplified this. Superman's powers came from the sun, period. In some cases, simply exposing him to the rays of a red sun stole his powers.

I saw a discussion about why Superman didn't have PTSD. The best insight on this came from the Dark Knight Returns where Batman is speculating on the differences between them. Batman's parents were killed before his eyes when he was old enough to understand what it meant. Superman was so young that he had no real memory of his real parents. He was raised by a loving couple so his childhood was idyllic.

I can make a case that Superman did have a fixation on his native planet. He traveled there often (using a time travel device since he lost his powers as soon as he was there). He met his parents on several occasions.

Sometimes his fascination with Krypton got a little creepy. Consider the bottled city of Kandor. The entire city was stolen from Krypton before its destruction by an android known as Braniac. After recovering the city he kept it as a trophy in his Fortress of Solitude. Supposedly he was searching for a way to restore the city to its original size but there was nothing to stop him from simply opening the bottle and letting a hoard of tiny Supermen set up housekeeping where ever they wanted.

The fact that fragments of Krypton were converted to kryptonite which was lethal to Superman must have been confusing. You can't go home - because it will kill you.

Between losing his powers if he went to Krypton in the past and having pieces of it try to kill him in the present, there was plenty to ward off survivor's guilt.

One of the most touching stories about Krypton involved Superboy discovering that his parents were still alive in suspended animation. With the help of his adopted father and at great risk to both of them, they recovered Jor-el and Lara only to play a recording in which Jor-el revealed that the two of them had received a lethal dose of radiation. He hadn't told Lara and the suspended animation was to keep her from despairing in their last few days alive. If they were reanimated they would die quickly and painfully. So a teenage Superboy had to choose between meeting his parent and assuring them a painful death or leaving htem as they were. As always, he made the correct choice regardless of the cost to himself.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

The Shadow of World War II

Today is the anniversary of D-Day when the Allied troops invaded the coast of France. That got me thinking about World War II in general.

I was born long after the war ended but it cast a long shadow. A lot of my childhood in the 1960s was influenced by the war.

First, there is the most obvious connection - my parents met because of the war. If not for they war it is unlikely that they would have gotten within 1,000 miles of each other. Millions of people in my generation can say the same.

It was also assumed that anyone my parent's age had contributed to the war effort. My father enlisted, my mother ran messages at a local plant that produced aircraft. It was a big thing in the early 1960s that President Kennedy had been in the war.

And the war was all over the media. There were TV shows about it. There were movies about it, many of them huge hits. Nick Fury of SHIELD started out as a sergeant fighting Nazis. GI Joe was as likely to be fighting in WWI as to be in the current army. If boys were playing war they were more likely to be fighting the Germans than the Russians.

For my parent's generation, the war was the one big, shared event. Nothing can compare. 9/11 was shocking but it didn't affect people on a long-term basis the way that WWII did.