Posted Friday, April 22, 2005

Friday's Fun: Turn Your Photos into Comics with Comic Life, Amazon Frustrations, and Today's Tunes for Earth Day

Another week crawls toward its inevitable demise, putting the planet seven days closer to being engulfed by an expanding sun.

But in the meantime, there's cool software to try, Amazon tears to cry, and music to buy.

Comic Life. Here's a fun program to try out this weekend. Apple categorizes Plasq's Comic Life as a "productivity tool," but it hasn't had that effect on me.'s Comic Life is a page-layout program for creating comics. It ties into your iPhoto library, displaying your photos in a panel. Drag a photo into the program, and you can add word balloons, thought bubbles, captions—even 3D exclamations like "pow!"

Plasq has put a lot of fun details into Comic Life's user interface. When you resize a word balloon, you hear a sound effect—of a balloon stretching. This is the only program I've ever used whose interface sound effects I haven't turned off.

There's even a "comiclife" tag on Flickr—check out what people are doing with this addictively fun program.

(GarageBand users: while you're at Plasq's site, don't miss the free Audio Unit instrument Musolomo.)

Amazon Frustrations
I'm trapped in some kind of Amazonian nightmare. For the last month or more, has been offering The Macintosh iLife '05 at a whopping 34 percent discount. This week, the price jumped to the full cover price of $34.99. And today, Amazon is saying the book ships in "3 to 5 weeks."

Just kill me.

Here's the scoop: According to my friends at Peachpit Press, a "bad data feed" caused Amazon to remove the discounts for several upcoming Peachpit titles, including mine. Peachpit tells me the discount should be restored within the next several days.

As for the "3 to 5 week" nonsense, one reader wrote to me yesterday saying that she'd received notification that her copy has shipped—from Amazon.

If you want the book now, I recommend ordering it directly from Peachpit Press. They'll ship it with 24 hours. Barnes & Noble is also shipping the book within 24 hours of ordering—and offers same-day delivery in Manhattan.

If you want to order through Amazon, I recommend waiting until they get their pricing and shipping act together.

It's a jungle out there.

Today's Tunes
Speaking of jungles, it's Earth Day. I plan to celebrate by taking Sophie to one of our local beaches—probably this one.

For your Earth Day listening pleasure, I present two versions of the same song: "Nature's Disappearing" by British blues legend John Mayall.

This version from 1970 is the first version he recorded. It's from his magnificent "USA Union" album, which is as listenable and relevant today as it was 35 years ago.

Want a more contemporary sound? Here's Mayall's 2003 version of the same song. The contrast in arrangements is amazing.

Happy Earth Day, thanks to everyone who's written with questions about my book and Amazon, and have a great weekend!