Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Reading

Last week I got to reading a book that I’ve successfully put off for most of the year. And this week, I’m reading another book that I’ve put off for most of the year. Both books are about vampires, and there’s just something very cool about reading vampire books right around Halloween, as opposed to, say, Valentine’s Day, when I bought them.

So, on my shelf (read: floor) they’ve sat, just waiting for this time of year. Of course, as with most things in my life, I had completely forgotten I’d ever bought the two books, and had I not snapped a photo of them for the blog a few weeks ago, well...

They would have been good reading for next Halloween, I suppose.

In any case, what with today being Halloween and all, I figured it'd be a good time to give a couple of recommendations for some seasonal reading.

The Dead Travel Fast coverI’ll start with the first one I read, written by Eric Nuzum called The Dead Travel Fast. It’s basically an exploration of vampire lore and how said lore has managed to stick around for such an incredible amount of time.

There are some really great and funny stories about the author’s own search for the undead, which takes him to Romania and the site of Vlad Tepes’ (the “historical” Dracula’s) actual castle in Wallachia, to a local chain restaurant where he hangs out with self-proclaimed vampires (who like fried food and talk really loudly), and to Forrest Ackerman’s California home and science fiction/horror museum.

Oh, and he watches over 200 vampire movies, too.

In between anecdotes, Nuzum relates vampire lore and legends, discusses where the term may have actually originated from, and provides insight into both Bram Stoker and the stories surrounding the creation of the book and, later, the copyright issues that plagued the early plays and films.

Nuzum sets out to explore why vampire themes have been around for as long as they have, and maybe--just maybe--to find a real, "live" vampire.

I don't want to spoil anything, so I'll stop right there. If you're into vampires, and big on pop culture, then this is the book for you. Also, if you're interested in the (pretty mysterious) biography of the man who wrote Dracula, Nuzum offers some great insight into the life and times of Bram Stoker.

For me, the bits on Stoker were the highlights of the book, and I learned a few things that I'd never known before. For example, Stoker and American writer Walt Whitman were friends through a series of letter-writing that the two partook of throughout their lives. Interesting stuff.

Anyway, for a quick, funny, interesting read on Dracula and vampire legends, check out The Dead Travel Fast.

Right after finishing Nuzum's vampire book, I dove into Sundays With Vlad, written by Paul Bibeau. I'm only about 80 pages in, and I really can't comment at length, but I will say that so far, I'm digging it.

The book opens with a funny (and kinda scary) story about the author's honeymoon, and how said honeymoon takes a detour to the hills of Romania in search of Dracula's castle.

There's also tons of fascinating information about Romanian political history, and I think I've come to the conclusion that the Romanian people were likely better off under ol' Vlad the Impaler than many of their more recent political leaders.

Bibeau relates the story of how, in 2000, in an attempt to beef up Romania's tourism and to capitalize on the country's most famous son, political leaders come up with a plan--a Dracula-inspired theme park.

Like Disney World,

And that's where I am now, so I'll stop here. I'm really enjoying this book so far, and once I'm done with it, I'll post an addendum.

Oh! And I just remembered my all-time favorite Halloween book, called October Dreams: A Celebration of Halloween, which is a collection of short stories and anecdotes from horror writers about their favorite holiday.

Included in the collection of short stories are tales by Ray Bradbury, Dean Koontz, Poppy Z. Brite, F. Paul Wilson, Ramsey Campbell, and Peter Straub. While the short stories are great, my favorite parts of the book are the "My Favorite Halloween Memory" anecdotes, which are related by all contributors. There's also a concise history of the holiday and a detailed list of the top Halloween films of all time.

Every year on October 1, I take this book off my shelf, dust if off, and read a few stories each day. My favorite is a Halloween Memory that involves Catholic school and Alice Cooper. This book is definitely a must-read if you're a fan or horror!

Well, that's about it for my reviews, so all that's left to say is:


Thursday, October 30, 2008

The things people read nowadays...

Just in case you're reeling from all the political hubub now that Election Day is almost within reach, we here at Exfanding Your Horizons will be providing you with a break from all of that for the next few days.

Do please remember to VOTE in our POLL for FAKE PRESIDENT, though, before you FORGET that we're having our own ELECTION. The FATE of the WORLD depends ON it.

Moving on...

As I said in an earlier post, I've really been getting into comics lately. Between borrowing from Alex and buying my own, here are the comics I've read or been reading recently, in the off-chance that anybody actually cares:

- Batman: Year One: an outstanding retelling of Batman's origin story and my favorite Batman comic thus far.

- Batman: The Long Halloween: A very solid whodunnit (and follow-up to Year One) that opened my eyes to some of the great things people can do with the visual portion of comics, but a little too crime-drama for my tastes. Still very good.

- Batman: Dark Victory: Another solid whodunnit (and follow-up to Long Halloween) that was still a little crime-drama heavy for me, and suffered a bit from constantly needing to explain who everyone was and what happened in the previous book. Still very good.

- Batman: Hush: Set significantly later than the three books above, this was more my style and had a great story and amazing artwork by Jim Lee. The first half of Hush ranks a little below Year One, but the second half fell apart for me because there were so many references to other comics, Batman and otherwise, that I had trouble keeping up. Overall, though, it balanced out to be very good.

- Batman: The Dark Knight Returns: Set at the end of Batman's career with a much older Batman, I found the story to be really engaging... when it wasn't being told almost exclusively through TV news reports. The artwork, which I found to be inconsistent and usually sloppy, bothered the heck out of me. I read this right after Year One, so it was rather jarring when I realized that I had missed decades of plot in-between (in the same continuity or otherwise). Good, but I had serious issues with it.

- Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again: Set after The Dark Knight Returns, this one pulled in characters and villains and ideas from all over the DC universe, and it did a good job identifying everyone and everything so that I seldom felt lost. I had the same issues with the artwork that I did with the last one, and the few times I was lost were pretty big and important ones, but overall this was pretty creative and good.

Now, there's been more than Batman, though you wouldn't suspect it.

- Ultimate X-Men: I'm borrowing the complete series on CD and going through it little by little. I'm around a dozen issues in, and after I got past the first issue I began to enjoy the series, though I could put it down today and not look back without shedding a tear. There are some neat action scenes, but I sorta feel like the series was aimed specifically at teenagers (maybe it's all the various "Tobacco Is Whacko... If You're A Teen" ads they have in every issue), and the character don't feel as deep as I hoped they would be. Enjoyable enough to keep reading.

- Green Arrow: Year One: Green Arrow and several other DC characters made crossovers into the Batman stuff I've been reading, and Green Arrow caught my attention. This book tells his origin story, and though a few parts made me wince a little bit for one reason or another, the artwork is excellent and the story is highly engrossing. Excellent.

- Star Trek: Voyager: Encounters with the Unknown: I just had to return to my Star Trek roots. This is a collection of four story arcs from different Voyager comics that all relate to--surprise!--encounters with the unknown. The first two stories were really well done and very enjoyable; the third one, a condensed and slightly altered retelling of the computer game Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force, was pretty disappointing, save for the end; and the last one had a great concept but didn't prove to be quite as exciting as I was wishing it to be. Overall, though, I got my Star Trek fix, and I liked it.

That's all for me... for now.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A very brief interview with Zombie Abe Lincoln

Some of you may remember my post about Virsona, a website that allows you to "chat" online with artificially intelligent historical figures and other automated folks.

Submitted for the approval of the Midnight Society, here is proof from Abraham Lincoln himself that we are totally not making up this Zombie Abe Lincoln thing:

Abraham Lincoln: Hi.
You: Are you a zombie?
Abraham Lincoln: Yes, and I crave your delicious democratic brains.

This is truth.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The polls are open!

Ladies and gentlemans, the polls are now open! Vote now for who should be Fake President. There's no electoral college here; your votes actually matter!

If you missed our candidates, here they are again:

Slappy McIntyre
James T. Kirk
Super Mario
The Tarrasque
Captain America (Deceased)
Zombie Abe Lincoln

The winner will be announced on November 5.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Presidential Candidate #6: Zombie Abe Lincoln

Today, Exfanding Your Horizons is proud (read: mildly embarrassed) to bring to you our final candidate for Fake President. Today’s candidate is one half of a Zombie Dream Ticket, and he's hungry for another term in the Oval Office. That, and brains.

Zombie Abe LincolnPresidential Candidate: Zombie Abraham Lincoln (un-deceased)

Running mate: Zombie Mary Todd Lincoln

Party affiliation: Republican

Experience: Led the nation through the Civil War, enacted the Emancipation Proclamation, considered one of our finest statesmen and one of our greatest Presidents. Oh, and... Blurrgh.

Reason for choosing running mate: After the reanimation, she just seems so much more clear-headed.

Positions on the issues:
- Domestic policy: No more plays. Or theaters. Or actors.
- Gun Control: My heart says no, but the three inch hole in my skull says yes.
- Equal Rights: Zombies were people, too.
- Stephen A. Douglas: He tasted fantastic this morning.

Chances of appearing as a secret boss in the next Resident Evil game: Very high

Reason for not being invited to host Saturday Night Live:

Least Favorite Actor:
A tie between John Wilkes Booth and Bruce Campbell

Well, that's it folks! All of our fake (and ridiculous!) candidates have had their chance to voice their platforms, and soon the time will come for you to choose. So, in the words of that old guy from the movie with the other old guy...choose wisely.

Zombie Abe Lincoln rises from the grave

[Photo (minus hysterical word bubble):]

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Presidential Candidate #5: Captain America

Yesterday we continued our introduction to the new candidates entering this year's Presidential race. Today, we uh, continue to continue. Confusing sentence structure aside, today’s candidate is a little less…alive…than our other candidates.

Statue of Captain AmericaPresidential Candidate: Captain America, A.K.A. Steve Rogers (deceased)

Running mate: Captain America, A.K.A. Bucky Barnes (the, uh, alive one)

Party affiliation: Avengers

Experience: Decorated war hero; leader of the Avengers; most patriotic super hero ever

Reason for choosing running mate: What with Rogers being dead and all, choosing a very much alive (and in continuity!) running mate only makes sense.

Positions on the issues:
- Domestic policy: Tony Stark is a jerk, and as President, I will treat him as such.
- Foreign policy: When I was alive, we handled the Skrulls in an issue or two. Today--ha! Decompressed storytelling, anyone? Oh, and Tony Stark is a jerk.
- Marvel Comics' "Dead is Dead" policy: In my first month as President, I promise to appoint editors dedicated to a traditional reading of company-wide mandates, and who will overturn this policy when the issue is brought in front of them.
- Being dead: I’m not real big on that, either.

Campaign rallying cry: AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!

Join us tomorrow for more of this nonsense.

[Image from]

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Presidential Candidate #4: The Tarrasque

Today we're introducing a rather... unconventional candidate. I would say that no further introduction is necessary because this candidate speaks for itself, but... well, this candidate doesn't speak.

The TarrasquePresidential candidate: The Tarrasque

Party affiliation: No, no. The Tarrasque doesn't affiliate with parties. The Tarrasque fully ate parties.

Legendary; virtually unstoppable destructive force; about as tall as a five-story building; survived the conversion to 4th Edition

Reason for devouring running mate: Hunger

Positions on the issues:
- Health care: One word--regeneration
- Foreign policy: Eat everything in sight
- Domestic policy: See above
- National security: Eaten
- Economic crisis: Run for your lives
- Dependency on foreign oil: No, seriously, run for your lives
- Zinc mining: We're all gonna die
- Aaaaargh

Chances of being elected: Burp

Oh, dear.

We're nearly done with introducing new candidates, but come back tomorrow and Monday to see what other candidates we can dig up.

[Image from]

Friday, October 24, 2008

Presidential Candidate #3: Super Mario

With all the talk of Joe the Plumber out there, we figured it was time to show you what happens when a plumber really gets involved in politics.

Mario and LuigiPresidential candidate: Mario

Running Mate:

Party affiliation: Mario Party

Experience and qualifications: Veteran princess-rescuer; countless victories won against the Koopas; his Final Smash is awesome; excellent driver; master at sports, including, tennis, golf, soccer, baseball, and basketball; alleged plumber

Reason for choosing running mate: Luigi is the only one who can jump high enough to reach the boxes of pasta on the top shelf of the White House kitchen cabinets

Positions on the issues:
- Foreign policy: Mario will personally aid any foreign nation in need of assistance and will pursue his objectives tirelessly until he succeeds or runs out of lives
- Economic crisis: If we plan carefully and time it right, a flying ship full of coins will appear and our financial woes will be over
- National transportation: Replace cars and highways with a complex network of pipes, springboards, and flying carpets
- Pollution: Anything can be cleaned up if you spray water at it long enough
- Military spending: We'll save money by claiming that "Shirt" and "Pants" count as viable battle protection
- Education: All schools will receive complimentary copies of Mario's Time Machine and Mario Teaches Typing
- Abortion: Anyone attempting to harm an infant of any age will be halted by a green dinosaur throwing eggs at them

What you'd have to look forward to at the beginning of every Presidential speech: "It's a-me! Your-a President!"

We continue tomorrow with a legendary candidate that is one of a kind.

[Image from]

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Presidential Candidate #2: James T. Kirk

Yesterday we kicked off our introduction to the new candidates entering this year's Presidential race with a brief look at candidate Slappy McIntyre. Today, we would like to introduce a man who would boldly go where no President has gone before.

Kirk and SpockPresidential Candidate: James T. Kirk

Running mate:

Party affiliation:

Starship captain and Starfleet admiral; he was out saving the galaxy while your grandfather was in diapers

Reason for choosing running mate:
To win over the pointy-eared demographic that went unrepresented when Legolas dropped out of the running

Positions on the issues:
- Energy crisis: We need more power, Scotty!
- Immigration: Heightened security to protect against illegal aliens with ridged foreheads
- Gun control: All firearms should have an optional "stun" setting
- Domestic policy: A chicken in every pot; a woman in every port
- Foreign policy: Attack any nations we can't communicate with, then sleep with their women
- Gay marriage: Not unless I'm invited to the wedding

Campaign rallying cry:

Join us tomorrow for an overview of the first sibling duo (that we know of) to run for President.

[Image from]

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

And Now, for Something Completely Different

In these tumultuous days of Stock Market fluctuations and increasingly important political issues, the country has come to a defining moment in its history. And, with the current tone of this year’s Presidential Election being what it is, we here at Exfanding Your Horizons have decided that the time has come to throw a few new hats into the ring.

So, over the next several days as we approach the real election, we will present you with several candidates for our fake election.

During the week leading up to Election Day, we’ll have a poll up for you to vote for your favorite fake candidate.

Then, on Election Day, we'll reveal the President of the United States that
you voted for.

Anyway, on to our first candidate. Enjoy... and Godspeed, little doodles...

He is a man who will help to heal the wounds of division between us in this country.

A man who will stand up for the working class.

A man who will fix the economy.

A man who will be the greatest American President.

He is...this man:

Slappy McIntyreHis name: Slappy McIntyre
His party affiliation: Independent Socialist/Fascist (on weekends)
His platform: Playstation 3...until "Gears of War 2" comes out, anyway.
His promise: To ensure hilarity in the Oval Office.
His running mate: None; as a fascist, Slappy hates everyone. Especially you.

Vote Slappy McIntyre ’08!

We warned you it would be something different. Be on the lookout tomorrow for candidates... from... SPACE!!!


Indiana Jones: Supporting the fedora industry since 1981

Raiders of the Lost ArkThere are a number of reasons why some people haven't seen the Indiana Jones movies. None of these reasons is acceptable, which is why it is your responsibility to go watch them now.

The adventures of the treasure-hunting, fedora-clad, bullwhip-toting, adventurous archaeologist Indiana Jones have a little something for everyone: action, suspense, comedy, romance, and Nazis.

The Indiana Jones franchise spans film, television, video games, books, graphic novels, toys, apparel, theme park rides and shows, pinball machines, and any kind of merchandise you can possibly imagine.

If the train to Indiana left without you, here's what you've been missing:

- Raiders of the Lost Ark: The first Indiana Jones movie, and a classic. It's Indiana Jones vs. the Nazis in a race to find the Ark of the Covenant in which the Ten Commandments were stored. Raiders has been a source of inspiration and parody for countless works that have followed it. If you watch no other Indy movie, make it this one.

- Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom: The second and darkest movie, traditionally held to be the weakest of the first three movies, sends Indy to India to rescue a village and its children from a religious cult. My take on it is that a few scenes are just a little too implausible and that the movie takes far too long to get to the main plot, but once it's there it's a good, fun ride.

- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: The third movie, originally intended to be the end of the Indiana Jones saga, puts Indy on a quest for the Holy Grail. If Raiders isn't your favorite, then I can say with utmost certainty that this one will be your favorite. The character development, character interactions, plot, and pacing are the best in the series.

- Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: The fourth movie, which takes places almost 20 years after Last Crusade, features an older Indiana Jones in a fight against the Russians on a hunt for a mysterious crystal skull. You'll hear plenty of mixed reviews about this one; a few of the scenes are a little too ridiculous or cheesy to swallow, and you might not like the sci-fi elements to it, but it's still enjoyable enough to watch at least once.

Not enough for you? Check out The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones (or, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles), a TV series consisting of just over 30 episodes and 4 made-for-TV movies. The series, amazingly enough, chronicles the adventures of a young Indiana Jones (as both a child and a teenager) and took a considerably larger educational bent than the movies.

Then, of course, there are the video games: Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine, and Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb, which is a lead-in to Temple of Doom. And that's not to mention the games based on the movies, such as LEGO Indiana Jones, which takes players through a LEGO adaptation of Raiders, Temple, and Crusade.

You might also be interested in the several Indiana Jones novels, or the Dark Horse Indiana Jones comics, or the action figures.

Temple of DoomPerhaps you tried the Indy Double Whopper at Burger King. I did. It tasted like adventure.

...Well, anyhow, the Indiana Jones universe is much bigger than most people might suspect. Go now and watch the movies if you haven't done so already, and then check out this link to check out just about everything Indy there is if you've still jonesin' for more. (::Groan::)

[Images from and]

Monday, October 20, 2008

Tidings of things to come

You might note that our posting schedule has been a little off recently, and that's due to they busyness we're both experiencing.

However, let it be known that there's a more significant post in the works for later today, and tomorrow...

Tomorrow is the start of a week-long event. Stay tuned.

...Oh, and please remember that we have a new poll every Friday with very few exceptions, so do your part and vote so I know how to change our banner!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Connecticut Renaissance Faire 2008

CT Renaissance Faire vendorsMany of you, especially those who know me personally, might be surprised to know that I'm not a big fan of anything fantasy, medieval, or renaissancey. Sure, I enjoy books and movies in such a setting, and I love Dungeons & Dragons, but the fantasy genre and those time periods aren't really selling points for me.

Thus, when my significant other discovered that the Connecticut Renaissance Faire was coming up and was within driving distance of us, she got all excited and started making plans while I tried to make myself as small as possible so that she would forget I existed and go without me.

I exaggerate. A little. But I have vague recollections of attending a Ren Faire when I was in middle school, and while I by no means hated it, I seem to remember that I would have been just as content being anywhere else.

Incidentally, a female dragged me along to that one, too. Between forcing me to read and taking me to Ren Faires, I swear that women are somehow trying to control my life.

But I digress.

I didn't want to go to this Ren Faire. I'm not wild about the time period itself or the food or the clothes or the music or the... anything. Beyond that, there was a fair amount of driving involved, it was money that I hadn't been budgeting for, and it would require me to be more outgoing than I feel comfortable being (lots of interaction and audience participation; distinct possibility of getting dirty, which I loathe).

Still, there we were on Sunday, driving in the direction of Hebron, CT, with she in boots and dresses and a corset and other Renaissancey gear that I can't spell, and I in my cargo pants, sneakers, t-shirt, and denim overshirt.

I told her in advance that she was the one who wanted to go, so she would be in charge of where we went and what we did. I would just tag along, regardless of what we did, as I had already conceded that I wasn't going to have any fun and thus should not attempt to voice my own opinion about doing things I might potentially consider to be fun.

In case you're unfamiliar with Ren Faires, here's a quick overview of what to expect, at least of the one we attended:

CT Renaissance Faire vendors- Merchants hiding under tents, vending everything from pewter figurines to authentic period garb to swords to artwork to woodwork to incense to lemonade and fried apple cider doughnuts. Oh, and turkey legs the size of an infant. No matter how much you budget, you will somehow run out of money.

- Actors dressed as commoners, beggars, gravediggers, bards, knights, clergy, and royalty wandering the faire, invading your personal space and interacting with you in character, usually in a humorous manner. They will encourage you to give them money.

- A reasonably high percentage of average fairgoers dressed up in costume, with a very small percentage being entirely period-accurate. I might add that, in costume or not, my sense of fashion prohibts me from ever being period-accurate. Also, costumes require money.

- Performances such as jousts, sing-alongs, and mud shows, in which the performers put on a skit in a pit of mud (a pit skit, if you will) and, in most cases, do their utmost to get as many audience members as muddy as possible. Oh, the joy. Additionally, these performers will invariably ask you for money.

- Activities such as costume contests, training to duel with wooden swords, axe throwing, and getting your wallet stolen.

- Rain. We were graciously spared this when we went, but I have no doubt this was a fluke.

- Sexual innuendos. Everywhere. If you go for five minutes without hearing a bawdy joke, you have wandered too far away from the fairgrounds, or else you have mistaken the clothes of a certain group of people for Renaissance costumes and arrived at an Amish village.

Given everything there was to do and see, surely I enjoyed myself at least a little bit, right?

Right! For two shows. And some of the shopping, too.

First was a performance by the Duelists, two guys who demonstrated the steps to proper dueling (Step 1: Looking good!) while exchanging bawdy jokes and insults. The two actually dueled on stage with swords, axes, and small children.

CT Renaissance Faire Duelists showNo joke. Look more closely at Bandana Boy in the picture here and you might pick up the vibe that he's about to charge the stage.

That's exactly what happened, just before their finale, in which they were to put together all of the steps they had laid out and have one big duel.

Swords + small child = lawsuit.

Now, the Duelists had invited the audience to heckle them (and in return, they would heckle back), so they gracefully made fun of the child and his mother when he first attempted to charge the stage, most likely hoping that she would get the hint, collect her child in one piece instead of many, and leave.

This did not happen. Her getting the hint, that is.

The valiant duo stepped up the offensiveness of their jokes in an attempt to wound the mother enough to get her to leave. Or something like that. They took to cracking their whips as they slowly advanced toward the child. They were doing everything to avoid breaking character and outright telling the woman and her kids to go home. (Yes, kids. There were two of them out there in the aisle.)

Needless to say, this entire ordeal derailed the performance, but they somehow managed to get through it all, though not as smoothly as anyone would have hoped. Still, though, a great time.

Oh, and I loved the part where one of the performers made a big Star Wars reference and was talking about Obi-Wan Kenobi's green lightsaber... when I and several others shouted, "IT'S BLUE!!!" to which he responded with something along the lines of, "Wow, you guys just managed to out-geek some guys in costume at a Renaissance Faire!"

The second show I really enjoyed was by a magician, Zoltan the Adequate. Was the show BRILLIANT? AMAZING?

...No, just adequate.

Or so he trained us to say. He also trained us to repeat, using ALL CAPS, words like DANGER! EXCITEMENT! MAGIC! and OOOOH!!! when he mentioned them in the performance.

I was strolling around some time after the show and was within earshot of another performance, and I amused a nearby vendor as I joined the distant audience members in shouting out "EXCITEMENT!" "MAGIC!" and "OOOOH!!!"

Zoltan's show was a wonderful mix of magic and humorous performance; we were just as often watching a magic show as we were a stand-up comedian.

I'm mighty squeamish, so I got squidgy about the final trick involving sharp objects and potentially dismembered hands, but you just can't help but appreciate a guy who can swallow the flames from one baton and ignite another with his fire breath.


The other shows, however, I could have done without. I was nervous throughout the entire mud show that my clothes, and subsequently my day, would be ruined by mud. Though that thankfully never occurred, the show was something of a letdown for me.

The performers attempted to tell about the history of England from its origins to the pinapple of its existence (er... I think you meant pinnacle...) with the assistance of nothing more than mud and sticks. The jokes were often predictable or old (except for the pineapple bit, which somehow never got old to me), but we ran into two of the performers outside of the show, and one of them in particular was a riot. There were funny moments, yes, but I never got very into it.

CT Renaissance Faire Trial and DunkeThen there were shows that I just wanted to get out of. First was Trial and Dunke, in which actors and audience members were brought up to the stage to be punished for whatever ridiculous infraction they were charged with, most popularly by being dunked into a big vat of (hopefully) water.

The show was slow, most of the audience members were horrendously uncooperative, and by that point I had heard ten times over any of the raunchy jokes they were trying to make. I am told that it was a lackluster dunking show and that they are normally more entertaining.

However, one very articulate and energetic little girl took the stage for her punishment, in which she walked around on all fours, mooed like a cow, and stole my heart. And things just got all better.

...And then things got bad. The final show we saw before the final show (think about that one!) was by the Bawdy Buccaneers, a show that made me as uncomfortable as the proverbial doughnut at a fat camp.

My wench (significant other) wanted to go because she wanted to hear some traditional faire songs, ones that are often a bit racy. They advertised the show as an adult show, not for kids, but given the nature of everything at the faire, that's the kind of disclaimer that's about as necessary as a sign at Trial and Dunke that reads, "Persons dunked into the large vat of water may get wet."

As it turns out, the Bawdy Buccaneers weren't kidding. They took getting wet to a whole new level.


I'll spare you all the graphic details, but I wanted to go home. They performed one or two of the traditional songs, which gave hope to my wench that things would get better, but nothing was worth sitting through that. Their music was from a wide range of eras, including a modern tune or two and their one period song.

Just keep reading and don't think about it too hard.

I have no doubt that most of the audience remained there because they enjoyed the show and liked seeing certain audience members get singled out for public humiliation, and I won't take that away from them (besides, I wouldn't want to), but I and my super-tolerant wench walked out by the time they started butchering the lyrics to the Eagles' "Take it Easy," and I'm sure you can image where that one went.

The conclusion of the faire took place under a big tent, though no elephants, clowns, or flaming hoops were involved. Most of the performers who had shows throughout the day came back to do one last short skit, almost all of which involved music and possibly dancing. It was a good sampling of everything, but all I wanted to do was go home.

Actually, I had wanted to go home by around 3:00 or 3:30 PM. This ended at 6 PM. We had been there since about 10:30 AM. We had to get up around 6:30 AM to get there in time.

And then we still had to drive home.

My suggestion to you? If anything I described sounded at all appealing, check it out. Just make sure that you don't leave all of the decisions up to your wench.

And with all the stuff there is to buy, is it possible to bring an amount of money that is more than enough for your needs?

No, just adequate.

In conclusion, walking trees. Yeah, I said, "walking trees."

CT Renaissance Faire walking tree costume CT Renaissance Faire walking tree costume

Friday, October 17, 2008

You Have To Burn The Rope

This is a video game everyone can and should play, and though it's a little more challenging than Progress Quest, it's much, much shorter.

Make sure that your speakers are on and that you have the latest version of Flash, and then go play this game:

You Have to Burn the Rope screenshotYou use the arrow keys to move, the spacebar to jump, and just about any other key to throw axes.

Good luck.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Hard at work...

If you're bored and hanging around the blog today, waiting for us to show up and post something, I'd recommend you don't.

Instead, if you're a fan of retro video games, check out Racketboy. It's a fun site that's similar to ours in some respects, complete with polls, features on retro games, discussion forums about all kinds of video games, and more.

No, seriously, check it out:

...And if you're not careful, you might even catch me pontificating on the message boards. Beware.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Diamond's Still Being Rough

Well, just got back from my local comics shop, and once again, they were shorted on this week's order. All in all, I'm missing about eight books. But, on the plus side, they finally got in issue six of the Vertigo series House of Mystery, which I've been waiting on for three weeks now.

My LCS is a great place with great people working there. I'm friends with the owner, and one of my good buddies helps out there on weekends. The shop is a good shop, run by good people. And they're getting cheated out of cash flow every week because Diamond isn't fulfilling their orders.

And that's beyond unfair.

Personally, I refuse to go elsewhere to buy my books. I'd rather support my LCS and wait Diamond out for as long as it takes--especially in a situation where many other customers are likely going elsewhere to purchase missing books.

Since work's pressing here at the Exfanding offices, I'll make this one short and to the point:

Support your Local Comics Shop.

That is all.

The Return of Beneath the Screen

In case anyone was wondering, Beneath the Screen, my buddy's roleplaying blog, finally has a new post after about two weeks of nothing. If you haven't heard of BTS and are in any way interested in roleplaying and, specifically, D&D, check it out:

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Diamond's Being Rough

Hey gang, another short-ish post for today. Work is still stupid busy, and "day job" may not cover the actual requirements of our occupation for the next couple of weeks.

But, fear not, as there is be...blogged.

So, today I figure it's a good time to ask you guys a few questions that have been bugging me recently. See, my favorite local comics shop, and others in the area, have been getting fewer and fewer of their orders from Diamond lately.

And, for those unfamiliar with the comic book publishing industry, Diamond is the main distributor of comics and comics-related paraphernalia in the country. So, for example, when Marvel wants to ship their new releases to comics shops across the U.S. each Wednesday, they do so through Diamond.

And I know many retailers have problems with Diamond, but because it's the only distributor around, those problems have to stay pretty quiet. And, to be fair, from what I've seen as a consumer over the past five or six years, Diamond does a good job.

Yes, I understand some shops have more problems than others, and yes, I understand and agree with retailers that Diamond's return policies can be kinda crazy, but all in all, I'm OK with Diamond.

(Oh, and any retailers reading this blog that may have torn their hair out after reading that last paragraph, and think that I'm way off-base with my conclusions, please do write in and yell at me. Seriously. I am pretty fascinated with how Diamond works, so if anyone out there has some inside info, please let us know!)

In any case, I'm OK with Diamond--to a point. Now, for whatever reason, my LCS keeps getting shorted on their book orders, week in and week out. And this has been going on for over a month now. And that's just not fair to the retailer, especially in this time of financial insanity.

I mean, when a customer comes through the door expecting to purchase certain books that he or she knows have come out on a given Wednesday--and they do know, since Diamond posts a list of all comics shipping each week on their Web site, by the way--and said books aren't at Comics Shop A, what's gonna happen?

Well, said customer will likely try Comics Shop B a few blocks down the road. And if Comics Shop B doesn't have the book, then said customer will likely turn to some of the bigger retailers online to purchase the missing book.

And that is beyond unfair for the local guys--for the comics shop owners who still exist today, almost a full decade after the mid-to-late-90's implosion of the comics market.

These are the store owners and employees who kept at it, even through the worst of times, simply because they love doing it. And these are the stores that aren't getting books on the promised ship date?


Think about it. Let's say that, this week, an issue of Bucky Badger comes out. And, because of the Internet and all the spoilers online, all the readers know that something HUGE is going to happen in the life of Bucky Badger.

Yes, that's right, this is the issue where ol' Bucky falls and is killed by his arch-nemesis, Sock Puppet Pete. And, since the Bucky Badger movie is coming out in a couple of months, this comic is going to be HOT HOT HOT.

And Ebayers will be selling it for multiples of its cover price. And, meanwhile, since Comics Shop A didn't get the book this week, and instead will have to wait until the following week (or, in the case of my LCS, three weeks later!) by the time the book comes in, everyone who wants one will already have one.

Leaving the retailer with a stack of paper. And leaving a bad taste in the mouth of the consumer who decided he or she couldn't wait to read the issue, and spent 50 bucks on Ebay.

So, not to veer too far off here, I guess I'll wrap things up with the following questions to you guys:

Have any of your local shops gotten shorted lately?
If so, how long has it been going on?
And, finally, what have you been doing about it--have you been waiting the books out, or have you turned to online sellers?

Please do let us know, because though I have a feeling this is happening all over the place; if it's just localized around here, then I'm really gonna be confused!

Monday, October 13, 2008

And now, a word from our sponsor.

I'm all about disclaimers, so I've taken it upon myself to brace you for the coming few weeks:

Firstly, business busyness is causing us to devote more time and brainpower to our jobs and less time and brainpower to our blog. That undoubtedly means stupider content, and less of it.

Secondly, my Internet connection at home is erratic, so it's often the case that I can't get online to write up and publish my posts in the evenings or over the weekends.

Therefore, although we endeavor to post something new every day, our posts will probably be a little less meaty and a little more fluffy for the next few weeks.

Like this post.

In the meantime, allow me to entice you with the promise of ale and wenches. I spent all Sunday at the Connecticut Renaissance Faire, and I plan to regale you with stories very soon.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Transformers 101: G-1: Part 1

For an end-of-the-weekend treat courtesy of all of us here at Exfanding Your Horizons, we have another special guest post from our buddy Gary. This time, Gary's diving into an introduction to the Transformers line of toys, shows, and movies.
So, without further ado, take it away, Gary!

Transformers charactersFor those of you readers out there who don't know much about the multi-media juggernaut that is the Transformers, I'm gonna attempt to present an overview of all things TF!

There is enough to write several books about TFs, and people have, so I will even suggest some for further reading. Roughly, I will go over the original toy line, cartoon, and Marvel comic that started it all.

Then, I plan to focus on the Beast Wars/Beast Machines series and toys. And, last but not least, I'll turn my attention towards the 2007 movie and its upcoming sequel. Maybe I'll even get the new animated show. I'll probably mention some other odds and ends about TFs throughout, but these will be the main focus of my 101.

Let's get started, shall we?

In 1983-1984, Hasbro was riding high after the successful relaunch of its war/action toy line G.I. Joe as 3 3/4 inch figures (like Kenner's Star Wars line). Looking for an inexpensive way to create another line, they bought toy molds from Japanese partner company Takara.

These molds were taken primarily from two transforming robot toy lines. One was called Diaclone, and consisted mainly of robots that changed into vehicles or giant animals with cockpits or seats for little men to sit in and pilot them. The other line consisted of robots that changed into objects such as tape players and cameras, or squat (superdeformed) versions of cars.

Part of this second line, Microman, was itself adapted for the U.S. market as Micronauts. To come up with a story behind the toys, Hasbro turned to Marvel Comics, who had created the backstory for G.I. Joe figures and developed a comic and an animated show (through its animation studio, Sunbow) for the property.

Marvel initially approached Jim Shooter to develop the idea behind the TFs, but development was soon passed on to Bob Budiansky, who would go on to write much of the American comics.

The basic idea of heroic Autobots and evil Decepticons bringing their centuries-long war to Earth and disguising themselves as vehicles to blend in was born. The concept was then expanded on [or, as we say here, "EXFANDED ON"--Alex] in different ways through each of its incarnations.

The toys had Technical Specifications (Tech Specs) that required a reader (a red clear plastic strip) to access information and a bio similar to the G.I. Joe file cards that gave kids a context to aid play. The comics developed their own story line with the first characters in the toy line, as did the animated show.

These three incarnations, spanning from 1984-1990, make up what is referred to as Generation One, or G-1, TFs.

G-1 Transformers
The Animated Series/Movie

The animated show made its debut as a 90 minute mini-series/pilot. In it, the planet Cybertron is in the midst of a centuries-old civil war raging between the peace-loving Autobots and the imperialistic Decepticons. A space battle forces a contingent of each faction to crash on a planet.

Millions of years later, a volcano erupts and the robots reactivate. The planet is revealed to be modern day (well, 1984) Earth, and the robots have taken the form of vehicles to disguise themselves. The Autobots defend humans as the Decepticons set out to conquer Earth and seize control of its energy resources.

The Autobots befriend "Sparkplug" Witwicky and his son Spike who become their "liaisons" to Earth culture and history. The series was then picked up for thirteen more episodes. These episodes used characters that were in the first waves of toys, but also introduced some characters that would not be released in toy form for over a year.

Among those were the popular Dinobots, the Insecticons, and the Constructicons. A second season of 65 episodes phased out most of the original characters and focused on those that were in the second wave of toys; some of which received their own episode. The series delved into the history of the TFs and took the TFs to visit alien worlds.

Transformers the Movie posterIn 1986, Transformers: The Movie was released. Millions of kids waited to see their heroes on the big screen, unaware of what the movie was meant to do.

The movie was conceived as a way to relaunch the whole TF brand. Kids watched as both Autobot and Decepticon bought it in what seemed to be the final battle. Most of the characters from the old toy line were killed so that new ones could be introduced and the toy company could discontinue those older molds.

A smart business move, but a "New Coke" mistake in killing off a beloved childhood icon in the form of Autobot leader Optimus Prime. The movie also introduced Unicron, a TF that eats planets and one whom the TFs had to stop from snacking on Cybertron.

The third season of the show immediately followed the movie, which had jumped ten years into the future (2005). It featured the adventures of the Autobots introduced in the movie and their new leader, Rodimus Prime, defending Earth and Cybertron from the raiding Decepticons.

A new threat arose in the form of the Quintessons, the original inhabitants of Cybertron and the creators of the TFs wanting to reclaim Cybertron. The show brought back Optimus Prime at the end of the season. A fourth season was scheduled, but canceled soon afterwards with only the three-part opener made.

This introduced the new concepts in the toy line of alien partners to TFs (Autobot and Decepticon) that would form either robot heads (Headmasters) or weapons (Targetmasters) for TFs.

That was it for animated TFs in the U.S. until the '90's CGI animated Beast Wars. However, the show continued to be made in Japan for a few years before finally ending.

Next time: The G-1 Toys and Comics

Thanks go to Gary for another great guest post. Stay tuned for more from Gary on the Transformers, as we all wait for another installment!

[Images from, and, respectively.]

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Weekend Whats-its and Woozies

Not much time left now before the glorious, glorious weekend, so Happy Friday to our legions (upon legions) of Exfanding readers! It's been a whirlwind week for us here, with lots of work happenings and late nights at our day job, and we're all looking forward to a couple of days of not doing anything.

Well, that's not entirely true. I plan on doing a few things this weekend, many of which revolve around reading. (Nathaniel, on the other hand, will be partaking in his usual Saturday morning bear-wrestling routine, then moderating a debate between Sarah Palin and Tina Fey on Sunday afternoon.)

[Nathaniel, on the other hand, will be at a Renaissance festival on Sunday and won't have time to moderate any debates. Though he will still have time for his morning bear-wrestling routine. -The Management]

For me, though, I look forward to diving into a couple of things I've been meaning to read. Well, OK, when I say "a couple," I mean an insurmountable pile of words (and pictures).

Here, take a look:

Stack of books*sigh*

And that's not even including my pile of new comics from this past Wednesday. Nor does it include my copy of Charlie Huston's latest Joe Pitt novel, Every Last Drop, which I've actually started...and I'm sure I'll finish it before...well...guh.

To that issue of simply having too much stuff, I'd like to make a quick point. One of the problems (if you want to call it that, I guess) of our fandoms (comics, gaming, orchids, whatever) is the sheer amount of stuff that's out there. I mean, new comics ship every Wednesday, and the new releases wall at my LCS sometimes vaguely resembles Gettysburg after the second day of fighting.

There are new books everywhere! And, have you ever noticed how, if, say, last week was a relatively slow week and none of the major titles shipped, you better believe that this week, EVERYTHING will ship? And you know they'll throw in a bunch of trades and hardcovers just for the heck of it. How comics shops run at all is beyond me.

And the publishers really don't seem to care. No [big, honking crossover event A] books this week? That's fine, we'll hit the stores with 20 must-read-to-understand-the-plot issues next week!

And, as customers get weary of being bombarded with DC's and Marvel's 50 book Wednesdays, customers decide to stop buying certain titles. They'll put issues whatever of Robin and Nightwing and Birds of Prey back on the shelf (even though the comics shop owner fully expects the customer to buy said issues, as he or she does every month) in favor of picking up the one or two big "must-reads" of that particular week.

And, in this economy, I have a feeling that more than a few comics buyers are "store-stealing" issues left and right, reading an entire book and placing it back on the shelves, only to leave the store empty-handed.

And that stinks for retailers.

And, if things stink for the retailers, you can bet that things are going to stink for the fans at one point, too. I dunno if the comics publishers are going to alter shipping schedules during this scary economic crisis, but it would sure make life easier on fans and retailers. If Marvel and DC lessened their weekly output, even by a few books, I'd bet that sales in local shops would increase week-to-week.

And I'm not suggesting they not put the books out. No, no, no. I just mean that maybe they could spread things out a bit. You know, one medium-sized week followed by two or three more, instead of one small week followed by three weeks of massive output.

No one's gonna listen, though. No one's gonna care. But, hey, it's half my blog, so I'll write about it if I want to!

How 'bout you guys? Are your buying habits changing in this crazy, scary economy? Leave some comments, and let us know. And, yes, I realize that this has been done on other blogs recently, but I don't care what their readers have to say. I only care about you guys!

So there.

Things That Don't Annoy Me

Just to be contrary to Alex's previous post, and just because I'm feeling rather positive these days, I present to you a counter-list of things that don't annoy me. Take them as you will.

- People who vote in our polls.
- Having more than two options for the future leader of our country.
- Steak, properly cooked.
- Reading a comic book from cover to cover.
- Robin, as in Batman and Robin.
- Waiters and waitresses who don't argue with me over anything.
- Magically bypassing most of Ice Man's stage.
- People who can talk about more than just a single topic such as the economy or politics.
- People open to intellectual and noncombative conversations about politics and religion.
- People who actually talk about religion.
- The name "Cassandra."
- Shows that cleverly use stock footage to obscure the fact that they're out of budget.
- Miscalculating the amount of money in my wallet when the error is in my favor.
- Chicago. The city, not the citation format.
- Amy Poehler, when the TV is on mute and I'm asleep on the couch.
- Parking lots for work that are neither perpetually under construction nor needlessly blocked off from the most logical point of entry.
- Media franchises that find a good stopping point and don't start up again long after they've been properly laid to rest.
- Newspaper comics that continue to find fresh, new jokes even after years of syndication.
- People who are bad at what they do but at least acknowledge it and strive to improve themselves.
- Alex. For today.
- People who are good at what they do but don't flaunt it.
- Classical music.
- Wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants during the summer.
- Spam e-mail that uses proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation.
- William Shatner's ego.
- Dogs living in other countries that I will never visit.
- Greenland.

Things That Annoy Me

Please note the title of this post. Once noted, please do try to keep said title in mind as you read the rest of this post. Otherwise, things may not make much sense. Also, keep in mind that this list is by no means final or all encompassing. It simply takes note of things that annoy me today.

And now, without further ado:

People who text message.
People who think comics are just for kids.
People who think comics are just for grownups.
People who IM throughout the workday.
People who hand out "healthy alternatives" on Halloween.
People who use acronyms like LOL, ROFL, and...well OK...acronyms, period.
People who are embarrassed to read a comic book in public.
DC Comics and their quite firm "no job for Alex" stance.
When this blog only receives one or two hits in a day.
When things I want to buy are way too expensive for me to afford.
Undecided voters.
Dirty or disorganized comic book shops.
Parents who are convinced their child will play for the Yankees.
When comics ship on a Thursday due to a holiday.
Building a new stadium when the old one is perfect.
Rain in Baltimore (true Exfanding fans will get that one!)
Late comics.
On-time comics that are of poor quality.
Mets fans.
When Congress bails out Wall Street.
When comics publishers are more concerned with having a "name" writer or artist on a book than they are with having a quality story.
Comics that don't strive to be more.
Complacency in any form.
Creators that fall back on their laurels.
People who think Kevin Smith is a hack.
Marvel Zombies, DC Fanboys, and Indie Snobs.
Comics shop owners who just don't care.
Comics publishers who only care about making movies and toys.
"Town Hall"-style "debates."

And, finally, lists.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

All Your Base Are Belong to Us and other laughable translations

As a person who majored in a foreign language in college, I know what it's like to mean one thing and say something totally different.

For example, one time I was reporting to my Spanish class on a news article I had read about how the Pope was traveling somewhere and making visits to people and whatnot. In Spanish, "the Pope" is "el Papa," a masculine word, but I goofed up and was calling him "la papa," a feminine word.

Mixing up gender pronouns is a common error, and normally a harmless one, but it turns out that by saying "la papa" traveled there and "la papa" did that, I was telling an amusing story of the goodwill tour of His Holiness, the Potato.


Not only do certain meanings get lost in translation sometimes, but new and humorous meanings are often added, depending on how egregious the error is. As a follow-up to yesterday's post about anime, let's investigate some Japanese-to-English gaffes, shall we?

One of the finest examples, which you've probably either been overexposed or completely unexposed to (depending on who you hang out with), is the All Your Base phenomenon.

Long story short, the Japanese produced a video game called Zero Wing that was a relatively average space shoot-em-up, but when the introduction to the game was translated into English, this happened. (Watch and read carefully.)

Spend enough time on the geeky corners of the Internet and you're bound to hear people quoting Zero Wing before too long. And, if you keep your eyes open, you might also spot references outside the electronic realm, such as on t-shirts like the ones that say,

Roses are #FF0000,
Violets are #0000FF,
All my base are belong to you.


Those are hexadecimal color codes for red and blue, by the way, which makes the shirt even geekier.

But you don't have to be a geek to appreciate the inherent humor of erroneous translations. I leave you with, a site dedicated to the ongoing errors of those attempting to translate Japanese into English and... well... doing it wrong.

(Possible content advisory, but any foul language is probably accidental.)

The PopetatoThis post has been approved and blessed by the Popetato.

[Image cobbled together in Paint from images from and]

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Anime: Not just Saturday morning cartoons

Lupin III characters1.) True or False: All animated films and TV shows, regardless of the subject matter, are intended for children by virtue of the fact that they are animated.

2.) True or False: All books, regardless of the subject matter, are intended for children by virtue of the fact that their content is printed on paper.

Hopefully I've made my point: judging the content of a work by its medium is foolish. Still, I'd bet $1000 of Alex's money that the majority of Americans are predisposed to thinking that anything animated is probably kid stuff.

Those who aren't so predisposed are probably familiar with the likes of South Park, Family Guy, or even Spawn, but (as far as I can tell) most not-for-children animated shows in America are comedies and could still be considered by some to be childish, which is close enough.

That's why we're looking to Japan to illustrate that animation is an art form and a vehicle for storytelling, and not necessarily just kiddie stuff.

Japanese animation, or anime, is known for its diversity, both in terms of content and audience.

Do you like huge robots beating the robo-snot out of each other? There are oodles of anime series out there for you.

Do you like big swords and gory fight scenes? There's some for you, as well.

Do you like light and fluffy comedies about average teenagers? There's plenty to go around.

How about psychological thrillers? Mysteries? Romantic dramas? Bounty hunters? Ninjas? Pirates? Furry animals that turn into spaceships? Anime's got you covered.

There really is something for everyone, from the young'uns who are looking for some good, clean fun, to the extreme opposites who are unsatisfied by anything less than utterly detestable language, reckless drug use, brutal violence, and rampant sex.

That being said, concerned parents and sensitive individuals would do well to seek out content advisory warnings and plot summaries before watching or purchasing a particular anime.

The following are my favorite sites for looking up anime plot summaries and content advisories:

Akemi's Anime World:
Anime News Network:

Of course, it would be helpful to have a few things to look up. That's why, with the help of some of my friends, I've compiled a short list of movies and shows that are accessible to first-time anime watchers. These are sorted by genre, but many of them fall under several categories:

- Action: Black Lagoon, Blue Seed, Read Or Die, Trigun
- Comedy: Azumanga Daioh!, Lupin III, Ranma 1/2
- Duel: Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh!
- Family-Friendly: Doraemon, Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro
- Fighting: Dragon Ball Z, Naruto
- Historical: Peacemaker Kurogane, Rose of Versailles
- Horror/Violent/Disturbing: Akira, Perfect Blue, Witch Hunter Robin
Little Bit of Everything: Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi
- Magical Girl: Cardcaptor Sakura, Sailor Moon
- Mecha (giant robots): Fafner, Gundam SEED, RahXephon
- Ordinary person in extraordinary situations: Escaflowne, Fruits Basket, Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
- Romance: Air, Paradise Kiss
- Slice of Life: Haibane Renmei, Honey and Clover, Tokyo Godfathers
- Space: Captain Herlock, Cowboy Bebop, Tenchi Muyo!
- Sports: Major, Speed Racer
- Steampunk: Steamboy, Fullmetal Alchemist
- Vampire: Blood+, Hellsing, Vampire Hunter D

Believe me, that is a short list, and by no means absolute. I guarantee you somebody's gonna come along and say, "Hey! You forgot about _________! You fool!!!" Yes, I know I'm omitting several groundbreaking and popular animes.

Yet, somehow, I can still sleep at night.

Also note that some of the names on the list are franchises and not just a single movie or series, so while you're investigating plot summaries and content advisories on the aforementioned sites, check to make sure that you're watching things in the right order. In future posts I hope to provide you with more details on several of these animes, including viewing order, but there's simply not enough space here.

Now, before you go off and watch some of these, let me give you a heads-up or two or five about getting into anime.

First, a note about finding anime: You local library is likely to have at least one or two mainstream anime movies (most likely by Hayao Miyazaki), and college libraries are especially good for finding anime.

Unless you've got a friend with an anime collection or a TV station that's playing one of the more mainstream series (which has been known to happen), you will most likely need to buy your anime, rent it, or order it on-demand. Fortunately, the Internet has lots of anime, and any store where you can buy DVDs probably has at least a small collection of anime, if not several shelves.

Second, unless you're fluent in Japanese, there are two ways to watch anime: in the original Japanese with subtitles, or dubbed into English.

This is really a matter of personal preference, but I would encourage you to watch anime in Japanese with subtitles to get as authentic an experience as possible, unless you've heard that the English dub is amazing and has a character voiced by Patrick Stewart, Gillian Anderson, etc. or unless you feel about subtitles the way vegetarians must feel about Turducken.

Third, like any other medium, anime comes in a variety of styles, so try not to let your initial impressions shape your expectations of future animes. Don't assume that any one anime is going to look like any other.

Joining us now to help illustrate this are images from Hellsing, Crayon Shin-Chan, Lucky Star, and Steamboy, respectively.

Crayon Shin Chan
Lucky Star

Fourth, an alarming number of animes just don't make sense. Every once in a while this is a translation issue. On occasion, this is due to the series making a number of Japanese cultural references that elude the uninformed (which is why you should make sure that the version of Azumanga Daioh! you buy has liner notes).

More often, though, you'll be following along just fine until the last few episodes, when WHAM!, all of a sudden it's like you've missed an entire season.

This happens for a few different reasons. Sometimes the creators ran out of budget and had to force an ending they really weren't intending. Sometimes you need to go back and re-watch the series (and probably consult Internet fansites dedicated to the series) to make sense of everything. Sometimes it's necessary to read the manga (essentially, Japanese graphic novels) on which the series is based in order to fill in the gaps.

And, sometimes, it really just doesn't make any sense. Period.

Fifth, and lastly, if one of your friends is really pushing for you to watch a particular movie or show and promises "oh, you'll love it," then it's probably hentai or yaoi, and if you're gullible enough to follow along with them, then you get what you deserve.

You can trust Penny Arcade on this one. (Language alert.)

...Oh, and the answer to both 1 and 2 was false.

[Lupin III image from Hellsing image from Crayon Shin-Chan image from Lucky Star image from Steamboy image from]

Monday, October 6, 2008

Interview With the Fanboy

Hi everyone. Sorry about the whole not posting thing yesterday--it was a busy weekend for everyone here at Exfanding. Not to fear, though, as Nathaniel's putting together a doozy of a post for the very near future. (And, not to put any undue pressure on him, but the very fate of this blog may rest with the quality of said post...)

Seriously, though, we're back today with a little something different. We've been kicking around the idea of doing a series of interviews--Actor's Studio style--with other fans of some of the things we love, and we figured today would be a good day to post up the first of said interviews.

So, first up we have an interview with fellow comics fanboy Gary Hochreiter. Longtime Exfanding readers (well, OK, like month-and-a-half-ago-readers) might remember Gary's post on toy collecting. Today, we asked Gary a few questions about comics, collecting, and fandom. Enjoy!

Hey, Gary. Let's start off with an easy one. What was the first comic that you ever read?

As a five or six year old kid, I read several old Silver Age DC comics that belonged to my uncles. Some Action Comics, Detective Comics and Aquaman. I "borrowed" my favorite one, Detective Comics #218 (featuring Catman and Bat-Woman who becomes Cat-Woman), and I still have it.

Someone gave me the Fireside Fantastic Four reprint collection which, regretfully, I lost in a move. This was part of a series of "trades" (trade paperbacks) featuring reprints of early Marvel stories by character. The FF one had the origin, the 1st modern Namor appearance, the 1st Doctor Doom story and the Galactus/Silver Surfer epic.

The first comic I bought myself was G.I. Joe #21(the silent issue) in a Toys-R-Us three-pack. The first actual superhero comic book I read was an early issue (number 8 or 9) of Classic X-Men at summer camp. I bought #16 and sent away for a subscription, which didn't start until #18--so I missed an issue.

At what point did you become a collector? Why?

I just kept trying new titles and liking the characters and stories. From Classic X-Men to Uncanny X-Men to Spider-Man to Iron Man to Avengers. And then I started getting some of the trades.

Before I knew it, I had quite a collection.

After college, I started to collect certain issues of Marvel's Silver Age books. This was primarily Captain America/Tales Of Suspense and characters' 1st appearances such as Banshee (X-Men #28) and some artist-specific work, particularly Gene Colan and Jim Steranko.

But that became too much money, and I decided to focus on the enjoyment of the story and art and not getting caught up in just possessing a comic as an object.

What books do you buy each month (top 5 books)?

Ongoing Series: 1) Green Lantern 2) JSA 3) Action Comics/Superman 4)Captain America 5) Avengers: The Initiative/Nova

What does your weekly "ritual" consist of? (i.e., how do you know what's out, where do you shop, when do you read the books that you buy?)

At the end of every month, I go through Previews and compile a list of stuff that I'm interested in reading. Every Monday (Tuesdays on holidays) I go to the Diamond Comics Web site and make a note of what is shipping that week.

The day before books are delivered to stores, I make a list to take with me into my local comics shop so I can check them off. This also helps me tally up roughly how much money each week will cost. There are those books that are my staples and some "maybe" books each week.

I go to the LCS and get my staples, then flip through those books that I am only thinking of buying in order to get a feel for the title. I then make a purchasing decision based on that. Later, when I get home I read through all of the new books quickly. Then, I go back and read them at a much slower pace.

How is your collection organized? Do you bag and board (that's geek-talk for placing comics in a protective case with a cardboard backing!)?

I bag and board, noting the issue title and number, the writer(s), penciler(s) and cover artist. Occasionally, I will additionally note if it is a character's 1st appearance and if the issue is a continuation from, or continued in, another title.

I have my collection separated into Marvel, DC, and Vertigo/Other, then alphabetized and listed in chronological order by title, then numerically from lowest to highest. There are some exceptions.

For example, The Last Defenders is filed under "Defenders" instead of "L" and the Green Lantern event The Sinestro Corps War is filed together in order of its parts, instead of being filed separately under Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps.

What is your PRIZED comic book/comic book related possession?

I prize all of my books equally. But I did have a special place for the Tales Of Suspense #98 and #99 I had. It was Cap's first meeting with T'challa, the Black Panther.

What is your "white whale"? That is, what is the ONE item you have chased and chased, but for whatever reason, can never seem to catch and purchase?

For the longest time, I wanted a copy of Iron Man/Sub-Mariner #1, which was one of the first one-shots and the launch of the two characters into their own titles.

What makes a quality comics shop?

Location, organization, and friendly and helpful staff/owners.

And, finally, why do you love comics?

The simple answer is the way the art and storytelling combine to make the characters come to life.

Well, folks, that's about all she wrote for today. Thanks to Gary for taking the time to sit down and allow us to annoy him with our questions. We'll have more of these interviews running from time to time, so check back often!