Fiz 9.21.05 

Gear, doggy doggy

You're old enough to own and care for your own dog. So why does having a virtual pet feel almost as much fun? Nintendogs, one of the latest (and the few) games Nintendo has released for its handheld DS console, is all the joy of owning an adorable real-life puppy without the real-life mess.

Yeah, we've done Neopets and Tamagotchis. We even played with G1 Furby. And our bemusement turned quickly into boredom. When I call little Oscar to the screen (he's one of those hot-dog-shaped mini dachshunds) I can see the twinkle in his eye as he lopes towards me. And when I pet him the interaction feels real, because I'm using my stylus on the DS's touch screen. It's only been a few days, but I already know Oscar's sweet spots: There's that little nook behind his ear, and practically all around his neck.

Like most geeks who fell for the craze, I landed my DS (dual screen) upon its release sometime around last Thanksgiving. It came with a remarkable adaptation of Super Mario 64 and a demo of Metroid Prime: Hunters. Nintendogs is the only game I've gotten for the thing since, and it's nice to have a cartridge that begins to unlock some of this machine's potential.

I can throw tennis balls to Oscar or have him fetch a Frisbee with a flick of my stylus (hint: It's all in the wrist). I can blow bubbles for Oscar by --- get this --- blowing into my DS's microphone. And if you've got a DS and a Nintendog, our pets can play together wirelessly. Sure, we'll start training for Oscar's obedience and agility trials once I run out of money for his food and shampoo. Until then, we're quite content just sitting around as the birds chirp and the world passes us by.

I'm not sure what it means that the slippage between real and virtual life is becoming more and more prevalent in contemporary gaming (see Second Life, Animal Crossing, Harvest Moon, or any version of Grand Theft Auto). I'm even less sure how to interpret the fact that these real-life approximations are becoming increasingly mundane. I mean, how much less thrilling can you get than a boy and his dog? I'm confident some programmer out there's gonna find out. In the meantime, I'll be chilling with Oscar in our momentarily sparsely decorated living room.

--- Chad Oliveiri

Oh, ¢®@¶!

Obscenity is like humor, in that both are subjective. Humor is like obscenity, in that both are part of the foundation upon which human culture has been built. One of the more obvious places that the two meet is in comic books, an art form that is often laughably obscene (see Omaha the Cat Dancer, Get Fuzzy, etc.). Should we censor the bondage in early Wonder Woman comics or make Robin wear bicycle shorts under his costume? Perhaps those are the best examples.

As a result, some exceedingly strange lawsuits have arisen in recent years. Benevolent java-pusher Starbucks sued the artist Kieron Dwyer for copyright infringement when he parodied their mermaid logo. The resulting court decision prevented Dwyer from printing his parody or displaying it on his website or linking to a website that displays his parody.

How can a lone artist stand up to such massed power (corporate or political)? The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund ( was formed in 1986 to fight for freedom of speech in their corner of the world. While they often represent the creators of comics, the Fund has more often found itself defending retailers who face prosecution from local authorities defining their political convictions with a few public convictions.

Self-appointed watchdogs have long tried to force all media through a filter of their own design. Pegged as a children's medium, comics have consistently faced censorship. As the funny books strive to shake off the juvenilia label, creators step into adult waters. The CBLDF was founded by publisher Denis Kitchen, reacting to efforts to push comics back into the kiddie pool.

Currently, the fund is defending shopkeeper Gordon Lee, who is charged with distributing obscene material when a 9-year-old found himself in possession of a free copy of Alternative Comics #2 last Halloween. Within that anthology, the youth found an excerpt from a tale about the early Cubists. Pablo Picasso is portrayed painting in the nude in three panels. One can only imagine the trauma.

--- Craig Brownlie

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