Sunday, July 31, 2011

Month in Review: July 2011

With our personal lives being characterized by change, loss, and transition, July was unsurprisingly a month of the unexpected. We touched on fandoms we've rarely or never discussed, we reacted to the strange events unfolding around us, and I ended up writing for entire last week of the month, with the aid of a first-time guest poster.

See for yourself how varied and surprising July was:

- A recap of my contributions to videogame humor website in both June and July, along with a note that GameCola is looking for new writers

- A review of the game-changing Ultimate Spider Man #160

- A public service announcement about S.978, the Bill that would purportedly destroy the world

- A celebration of Independence Day

- The amateur's guide to displaying collectibles, a post that I started over a year before, but never took the time to finish

- Alex's personal journal and occasional comics news corner, Waiting for Wednesday, Volume 3, Issues 27-29, discussing the bitter aftermath of chasing a dream, The Dark Knight Rises, and a farewell to Borders, plus a special edition where I hijack Alex's column

- Rumination on being a community of one

- Notes about the San Diego Comic-Con discussing absurd protests, the time writer Grant Morrison met Superman, and feeling left out

- Alex talks about growing up with professional wrestling

- A ridiculous statistic-laden celebration of 1001 posts

- The tale of Alex's first foray into the depths of Middle Earth

- A trio of moving-related posts: packing the boxes, moving the boxes, and unpacking the boxes

- A story about breaking the law for the sake of baseball

- A spotlight on the hilariously quirky television show It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

- Praise for the Baltimore Comic-Con and accompanying artwork

- An internal debate about whether or not I'm a serious Harry Potter fan

- A list of things to look forward to

- Free, handcrafted video game wallpapers by yours truly

- A quick update about posting

- Reflections on my time-consuming creative process

- A guest post regarding the ups and downs of the Dragon Age computer game series

Saturday, July 30, 2011

GameCola Recap: July 2011

Considering how busy July was for me, I'm impressed that I only fell one contribution short of my regular three per month to videogame humor website This time around, I relied mostly on gimmicks to prompt other people and transcription software to be funny on my behalf; I have mixed feelings about the results, but I suspect I'm being overly self-critical as penance for not submitting one more article in time.

Here's what I had to offer in July:


- Impaired Closed Captioning: EarthBound


- GC Podcast #38: Too Many Podcasters

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Age of Dragons

Today's guest post comes from none other than my sister's husband. Jeez, that's going to take some getting used to. "My sister's husband."

What lover of Medieval fantasy doesn’t like a good story about dragons!? I personally have a great love for the gargantuan beasts of reptilian reason; the elemental powerhouses that rule games all across the globe. One game in particular really piqued my interest: Dragon Age: Origins.

Sten the Quinari in DA:O

Dragon Age: Origins is possibly my favorite game created yet. Combining the ever-classic races of Dwarves, Elves and Humans, spinning together their stereotypes in a completely new and creative world; Dragon Age has not only exceeded my expectations for a game, but changed them.

You see, I like a good story. I like a game that has a well-thought-out villain, or a complex problem that needs to be addressed. I like a story where the Hero is not only traveling to new lands, meeting new people, and learning new skills, but is also developing as a person (or an animal, in some games). The complexity or depth of character development is something that can really make a game.

The fascinating thing about Dragon Age is that the character development is entirely up to you. Your responses to questions can span multiple personalities. I could play as a mage ten different times, each time with the same powers and the same skills, and be a completely different character each playthrough. For me to even talk about a second playthrough is rather unheard of. Some of the best games in the world (in my own opinion) I have only played through once. Dragon Age, however, has the ability to literally be different games each playthrough (or seemingly).

Not only have I played through twice, but I have also purchased most of the DLC (Downloadable Content) and played through the expansion pack (Dragon Age: Awakening) three times. So understand my excitement for Dragon Age 2.

Fighting a Rage Demon in DA2

Dragon Age 2 had a fantastic story. In fact, the story was broken up into three complete Acts. The development of the issues between the Qunari and the other races, and the tensions between the Templars and the Magi, were all really well thought out and really well told. DA2 was awesome story-wise, but it wasn’t until playing the #2 to my #1 game that I realized there is more to a game than the story.

Let me explain a bit:

You are searching for a certain artifact and the quest tells you to go to the harbor district and look around. While gathering information in the harbor district, you find that you must enter Warehouse 3 and beat up all the baddies to get the artifact. Upon defeating all the baddies, you notice a door that you cannot unlock, nor interact with in any way. Even stranger is the fact that the mini-map continues on in that direction. After spending quite some time trying to figure it out you leave to go on another quest.

The second quest tells you to go to another part of town to a completely different warehouse. When you enter this warehouse, it is exactly the same! Everyone in Kirkwall has the same architect, and that architect is lazy and only has one floor plan. Do you remember that door? The one that happens to be in the same place? Well, now you can open it and go through where the mini-map said you can go through…

Why take a fantastic game and toss out a second that is nowhere near as good? Not only did they lazily recycle maps, but Bioware made it so that items can only be equipped by your main character, instead of your main character being able to pass off any almost-as-cool-as-the-one-he's-using items to your party members. For example, my helm gave me +1,000,000 attack, and I found the super helm that gave me +1,000,001 attack. Instead of being able to give a cool bonus to my companions as well, I had to choose one or the other for myself.

Not everything in DA2 was bad. The graphics were far better and combat was improved. It was just way too redundant.

All in all, Dragon Age as a whole (DA:O, DA:A, & DA2) combine to make the beginning of a really awesome gaming world. I just hope Bioware takes a play out of Blizzard's rulebook and waits before pumping out another game, even if it takes 12 years to do so.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Creative Process

Does it take anyone else this long to be creative? All but the most fillertastic blog posts take me between 30 minutes to 3 hours to write; GameCola articles can run me about 1-6 hours depending on how many screenshots I'm taking and whether I'm writing about Mega Man 10; my latest 15-minute YouTube video has been in the works since April. As someone pointed out, I think my YouTube handle describes me better than I ever intended--like the Gemini Laser in Mega Man 3, I move slowly...but I always bounce back.

There are certainly side projects I've put on hold indefinitely, but if it's something I'm truly committed to, and if I've got a clear and reasonable path in mind to my end result, I'll usually keep at it. It just might take me a very, very long time.

For example, I started a walkthrough/FAQ for the PC game Jetpack a few years ago, and I stopped when I got busy with other things. I just went back to working on my guide last week, just to see if it was worth picking up again, and I had some fun with it...but I also began to wonder how valuable it was to continue being as thorough as I had been when I was writing the guide with all the time in the world on my side. At this point, I'll either chip away at it whenever I think of it over the course of the next few years, or I'll drop it entirely, or I'll just get lazy and write only whatever is most useful. The path to completion is clear, but doing it the way I used to seems unreasonable anymore.

As I may have mentioned before, part of what takes me so long to write is that I tend to deliberate over every sentence, which serves the twofold purpose of proofreading/editing as I go, and ensuring that I'm representing myself in the best way possible so that when I'm no longer around to clarify or support my statements, my words should be sufficient on their own. I realize I don't always succeed at that, but that doesn't stop me from trying, or from spending 30 minutes to 3 hours on a few paragraphs.

I think part of it is that I revel in the creative process. Even if I'm not actively producing anything, it's nice to be sitting in front of the keyboard with the potential to produce something. I assume the other part of it has to do with surrounding circumstances such as how much sleep I've gotten or how long I can work without interruption (for better or for worse). Whatever the case may be, it seems to take me an awfully long time to write or record just about anything creative, and though I'm sure I'm not, I still wonder sometimes whether I'm the only one.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Waiting for Alex to Return

Hi, it's Nathaniel again, hijacking Alex's weekly comics/catharsis column once more. Anyone who's been around this blog awhile knows that I'm not terribly up to speed with the latest comics, so I won't pretend I know anything about just how ultimate the Marvel universe is anymore, or who's wearing Batman's cape these days. (Answer: Batman.)

I will, however, take a moment to talk about how heavy trade paperbacks are when you throw them all into a big box and try to lug them up a flight of stairs.

They are very heavy.

I've devoted roughly the same amount of shelf space to my video games and DVDs as I have to my comics, yet the comics weigh twice as much and and provide half the lasting entertainment value, if even that much. I replay my favorite video games from time to time--though far less frequently now that I've got such a massive backlog--and I'm willing to rewatch just about any TV show or movie I like if it means I get to share it with someone else. Comics, though? They're all one-shots to me.

Granted, the oldest comics I have on my shelf are only two years old--that's hardly enough time for nostalgia to set in, and I still remember most of the stories fairly well. It might be fun to dig up and dust off the random single issues I have from when I was much younger, but I don't have any compelling reason to go back in time with Booster Gold to a few months ago when I first read about Booster Gold going back in time. My trades look pretty on the shelf, but it'll be at least another few years before I know whether it's been worth it to lug them around instead of selling them.

The practical side of me is saying that this might be an indication that, at least when it comes to moving your entire collection of comics from one place to another, this trend toward digital comics might not be such a bad thing. The side of me that embraces my collector's mentality is saying that if I wasn't interested in having a collection, I wouldn't have continued to stockpile when I could have easily borrowed just as much from Alex. In some ways, my collection is just as much for me as it is for my family and friends.

A shelf filled with comics becomes a lending library, and a library of your own means you can share what you like with other people. It's not entirely unlike a DVD library, but it's harder to lean over someone's shoulder and read a graphic novel together. Lending out comics typically invites deferred gratification; it isn't until you're arguing over whether The Hulk or The Thing would win in a fight that the satisfaction of sharing your comics library kicks in.

That's one kind of satisfaction I've largely missed out on because I'm not a comics fanboy. I seldom get excited about the books I lend, borrow, or read on my own; I don't have enough of an opinion or comics education to really get into a deep discussion, or debate, or fisticuffs with anyone. Perhaps reading the comics is only part of their entertainment value--the other part is actually talking about them. I think I've been ignoring the social aspect of the comics fandom all this time, for better or for worse, but I'm willing to bring up the subject a little more often.

It's been ages since we've had more than a brief mention of The Goon on this blog, and it doesn't help that I stopped to rest after visiting Chinatown and haven't been back to Lonely Street since. Maybe...just's time for me to start asking Alex again for a knife to the eye.

And if none of what I just said made any sense, then maybe it's time you asked Alex for a knife to the eye, too.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Quick Note

It's unusual for one of us to post more than two or three days in a row, but I promise that Alex hasn't quit the blog. He's under contract to stay until he's at least watched the other two Star Wars movies he hasn't seen.

Hang tight; we'll be back to a somewhat regular posting schedule before you know it. With real content this time.

Monday, July 25, 2011

GameCola Is Hiring!

If you've ever wanted to write for videogame humor website, now is your chance.

...That's it.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Free Video Game Wallpapers!

I have my moments of creativity, and I'd like to share some of the video game-themed desktop backgrounds I've made for my computer over the years. Click to enlarge, and feel free to snag them for your own personal use.


A collage of the box art for every NES game I owned at the time:

A showcase of every enemy in the original Final Fantasy:


The main interface of Master of Orion II:

A slice of Hyrule from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past:

Mugshots of all the bosses and characters from the first nine Mega Man games:

Any Size Screen

To celebrate my annual playthrough of Crystalis, it's the first screen of the game's introduction; just center this one and set the background color to black. It's delightfully ominous:

Lastly, because it's amusing and slightly absurd, the story screen from Bad Dudes; just center this one and set the background color to Red 0, Green 181, Blue 110:

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Things to Look Forward To

Sometimes when the present feels overwhelming, the best way to cope is to look to the future. We've been going through a lot these past few weeks--sometimes good, sometimes bad, and sometimes just plain busy--and there are certain aspects of the present that we neither want to think about nor deal with. Perhaps you're feeling the same way.

I don't have much to offer in terms of a post today, but I can share with you the things I'm looking forward to once everything starts to clear up and I can focus my energies again on blogging. Here's a little forecast of what's ahead from me on Exfanding in the next few weeks (and possibly beyond):

- An introduction to the four Dragon Warrior games for the NES

- An ode to cream soda

- An update on my personal challenge to sort through and donate/discard items whose continued presence I cannot justify as I unpack boxes at my new apartment

- A review of the novel Dune, in one form or another

- A joint celebration of three years of Exfanding Your Horizons!

- A User's Guide to Star Trek: The Next Generation

- The long-anticipated conclusion to my video review/walkthrough/showoff video of Mega Man 6

Gee, this is starting to look like a lazy Month in Review where I didn't bother to hyperlink anything. Though I know it'll take a lot of time and the right kind of inspiration to pull these posts together, I'm excited about what lies ahead. And hey, what's in-between might be equally exciting--some of our favorite posts are ones that suddenly came together on a whim.

Anything in particular you've been hoping to see from us?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Unpacking the Wrong Boxes, or the Right Boxes Too Soon

I've been unpacking boxes since I moved into my new apartment on Saturday, but interestingly, it wasn't until Monday that my television and DVD player were set up, and Tuesday until my computer and Nintendo were set up. If you're just tuning in to Exfanding Your Horizons, it's pretty much unthinkable that a guy so tethered to electronic entertainment such as myself could go so long without it.

There was something satisfying about getting to work early, going to bed early, and spending the rest of my time organizing and piecing together my apartment. There was a nice cycle of productivity at home and at work, and I thrive when I feel like I'm making good use of my time.

Everyone who had helped me move in had cleared out by Sunday night, leaving me all by my lonesome on Monday when it came time for dinner--leftovers, round one. Normally I'd get caught up on YouTube videos or GameCola articles over dinner, but without Internet access yet available in my new place, those options weren't available. Though it was refreshing to live an unwired life for a while, I found myself in the mood to watch something. I hooked up the TV and DVD player and sat down to a random episode of Star Trek: Enterprise, the only thing immediately accessible that I hadn't seen recently and wasn't currently watching with my fiancée.

Dinner with entertainment was a great success. I went back to packing boxes until I was tired, went to bed early, and got up the following day with plans in mind of more of the same.

Work happened as usual and I spent that evening beginning to unpack the kitchen--leftovers were running out, which meant I'd need to get ready to start cooking again (read: I needed to locate the can opener and the box with the Chef Boyardee). I'd made decent progress by the time I got hungry, but not enough to avoid having leftovers, round two (filet mignon, rice, and french fries) served in an oversized salad bowl.

This time, however, I wanted to get back to work fairly quickly, which meant I'd need something shorter than an episode of Enterprise. I had been playing Dragon Warrior IV before I moved, and it would take minimal effort to locate the game and hook up the NES. So, that's what I did: dinner and Dragon Warrior. I was at a point in the game where I could either spend my time in the casino racking up mondo coinage to trade in for the fancy shield I wanted, or I could take my time leveling up to increase my chances of survival in the unexpectedly long final dungeon of the game.

In other words, the kind of thing I could easily break from whenever I wanted to get back to work.

I don't think I got back to work.

Normally I play video games to unwind or blow off some steam, and I look forward to the rewards of gaining new exposure to something geeky I can share with others, and feeling like I've made some kind of progress. Yet this time, I wasn't particularly stressed about anything, and I was rather enjoying making so much unpacking progress around the apartment. I started up the NES just to kill some time and give me something to do while eating dinner...but I kept playing because I was having fun.

I've had this recurring problem where I get halfway through a game before deciding I'm not really fond of it, but I finish it because I've already invested so much time and effort. I've had another recurring problem related to that one where I go after all the optional material in a game just for the sake of completion.

But this time...this time, I was actually curious about that shield in the casino, and I wanted to find out without a walkthrough what it did. I enjoyed the mindless, endless card games. I didn't mind the well-spaced random battles. I wanted to see what was ahead. There was of course an element of completionism involved, but the bottom line was that I was having honest-to-goodness fun.

Honest-to-goodness fun that disrupted this idyllic little cycle of work, different work, and sleep.

I'm still generously surpassing my self-imposed requirement of unpacking one box per night until everything is sorted out, but adding in Nintendo time tends to muscle out the chances of going to bed anything earlier than "on time." I've got mixed feelings about living more like a regular person than a focused worker bee; being productive can be fun, and having fun can be productive, but I'm not sure whether I was ready to start encroaching on pure productivity for the sake of pure fun.

Either way, I'm happy, and things are coming together. I'd just better get the kitchen unpacked before I get my Internet hooked up, or else I'm never gonna find that can opener.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

San Diego Dreaming

So. San Diego Comic-Con, huh?

Preview Night was last night, and in just a couple of hours, the madness that is the official Day One will begin in San Diego. Hundreds of thousands of fans, creators, actors, directors, and--I'll just say it--weirdos, will make their pilgrimages to the mecca of geekdom, or the Dork Prom, or whatever else you'd like to call it.

And here I sit, at my desk, thousands of miles away.

As much as I've talked about not really wanting to be at Comic-Con--you know, because of my utter abhorrence of large, sweaty crowds--I always feel a bit left out on the first day of the show.

First days are always the best--everything's new and everyone's excited.

As cons wear on (and I'm assuming this is especially true of something as insane as San Diego), things tend to drag a bit. People get tired and frustrated with the crowds, or money runs out, or you just get to the point where, if you see one more cosplay Blue Beetle, you swear you'll start throwing haymakers.

Maybe that's just me.

Anyway, for today at least, I'll be all whimsical about what I'm missing--all the sights, sounds, books, art, panels, explosions (What? There's a new Michael Bay movie out now), creators, etc.

But here's a way to "be there" without ever having to leave the comfort of your own home. Or, in my case, my own car.

Starting tonight at 6:00 PM and running straight through until 3:00 AM Monday morning, the official Comic-Con Radio channel will cover, well, I'm assuming pretty much everything that's going on at the Show of Shows.

That's right. Comic-Con has a radio station. An official radio station.

And it's on Sirius/XM Satellite Radio, channel 141. You can check out the details right here, and remember to tune in today, starting at 6.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Waiting for Wednesday, Volume 3, Issue 29

Welcome to a post-Borders edition of Waiting for Wednesday. That's right. It's officially official, now. Borders Books has gone the way of Tower Records.

As in, don't go looking for a Borders in your neighborhood anytime soon.

Sadly, the inevitable has happened, and Borders will close the rest of their stores in the coming months. A buyout deal fell through over the weekend, and instead of taking the franchise to an auction yesterday, the powers that be at Borders have decided to close up shop. But first, they'll try to liquidate their remaining stock.

From Publisher's Weekly:

"Subject to the court's approval, the first phase of liquidation would begin immediately, as soon as Friday, July 22, and continue through the end of September. As the stores wind down, approximately 10,700 Borders employees will lose their jobs."

So, liquidation sales will begin this week, with discounts escalating as the closing date draws nearer. In my area, there's only one Borders left standing, and it was in a different state than where I live.

Still, it's only about 20 minutes away, and the drive takes me up through the woods into a nice, quiet neighborhood. Over the years, I've spent a lot of time at that Borders, looking for books and hanging out at the really nice, open-windowed cafe downstairs.

Many an Exfanding post was typed up in that cafe, as were countless scripts and short stories. Plenty of coffee was consumed, and several books were read.

I also spent a lot of time at that Borders with my mom, as she is just as big a reader as I am. She reads more than me, actually, and only occasionally will her books have pictures in them.

We'd often head up to the bookstore together, sit down for a cup of coffee and catch up on things, and then head upstairs and buy whatever we were looking for. Mom to the mystery section, me to the comics section.

Of course, Mom and I can still do this at, say, a Barnes & Noble, but that Borders shop up in the woods--the last of the area stores to go down--will always hold some nice memories, and I'm sad to see it go.

I'll stop in at some point in the next weeks, most likely with my mom, and we'll have coffee and we'll talk, and we'll buy some books.

Now, with any such news, there's always the forgotten human element, and in this case, as the quote up top notes, over 10,000 people will be out of work. In any economy, that's scary. In this economy, that's downright terrifying.

I wish the best to all of the nice folks at Borders who have stood there and answered my stupid questions, and dived into the back to see if the latest Sandman collection was possibly sitting on a table somewhere.

Good luck to you all, and thanks. Readers--the real, true readers out there--appreciate the heck out of what you guys do.

And on that incredibly depressing note, let's get to this week's comic that I'm most looking forward to. From Dark Horse and Eric Powell and Steve Niles, today sees a cross-over event for the ages.

The titular character of Powell's Goon series will meet Niles' Criminal Macabre (anti)hero, Cal McDonald in a one-shot called, "When Freaks Collide."
Obviously, I'm a Goon fan. But I'm also a big Steve Niles fan, and Criminal Macabre is one of those series that just clicks with me. From the first stories by Niles and artist Ben Templesmith to the various one-shots and mini-series, this is the horror fan's horror book.

And when you put the Goon together with Cal? Horrible, hilarious things are going to happen.

Here's the solicitation information from Dark Horse:

Cal McDonald, the drug-fueled paranormal private dick, goes head to head with Lonely Street's zombie-pulverizing Goon, in a weird in-between world full of monsters, horror, and humor!

* A perfect introduction to both titles for new readers!

* Covers by Eric Powell and Fiona Staples.

Not much to that description, but, hey, I'm sold. And you should be, too. Check it out and let us know what you think of it. Our comments section has been a bit lacking recently, despite the fact that we seem to have an uptick in hits per day, and visitors overall.


Anyway, it's time for me to get a move on. Enjoy the day, and if you happen to be one of those lucky souls headed out to Comic-Con today, enjoy, and let us know what you think of the show!

Someday, maybe, Exfanding will take the mother of all road trips and head out there. But for now...what are you Waiting for?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Stupid

Well, it only took a decade, but I've now seen all eight Harry Potter movies. Granted, the first movie only came out a decade ago, and the last one is still in theaters at the moment, so I guess my statement isn't really saying much of anything, other than that I'm a big geek.

Now, I think it's safe to say that Harry Potter has enjoyed more mainstream success than just about any other fantasy series out there, save The Lord of the Rings. Still, mainstream can still be geeky. Keeping up with all the books and films as they come out reflects a certain degree of geek commitment, but I really don't know if I qualify as a true fan. I've enjoyed the series, and I can hold informed conversations about the series with even the most devoted diehards, but I've never had any interest in owning a Draco Malfoy shower curtain or getting a lightning bolt tattoo on my forehead. In fact, I only got into the Harry Potter fandom for research purposes (which is a story for another time); there was nothing inherently fascinating to me about the books or movies to lure me in...yet I've stuck with them all this time of my own volition.

I like several of the characters, but I never found myself as invested in anyone as I was in the protagonists of, say, The Time Traveler's Wife. I think what I appreciate the most about the series are the continuity and creativity. Referring back to previous installments (in moderation, where appropriate) goes a long way with me, and many of the spells, creatures, and concepts were endearingly novel to me (though I admit I don't read a lot of fantasy). Plus, being able to craft a coherent storyline that spans a decade is an impressive feat, especially with the movies, which started being released before the book series had concluded--kudos to the filmmakers for condensing so much material so well without knowing exactly what would and would not be important by the end of the series.

I'm not planning on rereading the books any time soon (I'm too busy working on Dune, for starters), and I don't believe I've seen any of the films more than once (possibly twice for Prisoner of Azkaban), nor have I had any deeply compelling reason to rewatch any of them. However, now that the films have all been released, I'm toying with the idea of throwing a Harry Potter marathon once the last film comes to DVD.

It's quickly becoming a personal tradition to hold a marathon whenever I move to a new place, so the timing on this is perfect. Beyond that, I'm curious to see the evolution of the movie series over the course of a day--watching the actors age ten years, seeing a decade's worth of improvements in special effects technology, and observing how such a huge story ties together, all in a matter of hours.

Curiosity's only part of it; it's been a while since I've done something stupid. That's almost 20 hours of movie, provided the movies are jammed in back-to-back with no break other than the time it takes to switch a disc. Calisthenics may be required during the credits. It'd be the most absurd marathon I've ever done, made even more absurd that I'm only a casual Potter fan.

I am only a casual fan, right?

Monday, July 18, 2011

San Diego Comic Con Week: 2011 Edition

And here we are again--it's Monday of the year's biggest comic book week. Starting in just a couple of days, Comic Con International will once again descend upon San Diego, and the entire geek world will have its eyes squarely focused on every bit of minutia the convention spews forth.

But before the madness begins, we get to read Tweets from important comic book-type people, telling us all about their pre-San Diego preparations.

A week in sunny San Diego sounds nice and all, but I think I'd rather live vicariously through the Internet, and just read about all the goings on at the show.

Too many people, too much happening at the same time.

I'll take my chances at a smaller show, thanks, and I'll happily read about San Diego from the safety of my cubicle.

Speaking of living vicariously, today I wanted to share a link to a wonderful Comic Con story from Grant Morrison. It's about the time he met Superman.


Go check it out, right here at the Hero Complex website.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sunday Art Day!

I've talked before about my love of the great Baltimore Comic Con. Held in one of my favorite cities (mostly because of Camden Yard) and for a myriad of other reasons, the Baltimore Con is probably my favorite comics show, period.

It's pure comics, and Hollywood stays away.

Not that Hollywood being all up in our business is a bad thing, but, at conventions, the presence of things that have absolutely nothing to do with comics can be a bit annoying.

When, you know, you're there to look at comics.

The Baltimore show manages to stay completely comics-centric, and ask anyone who has made their way to that show and they'll tell you that, while it's a pretty big convention, it somehow manages to have that close knit, small show feel.

The best part about the Baltimore show for me each year is the accessibility to a wide number of artists and writers. My first time at the show, Geoff Johns tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I knew where the panels were being held.

You know, because he was supposed to be on a panel.

That same year, I walked by Dan Slott's table on three different occasions, and on each passing-by, he was talking, happily, to the same three fans. I was able to walk up to the tables of both Eric Powell and Mike Mignola, pick up sketchbooks and art, have them sign a few books, and chat with them both, all in a couple minutes' time.

Baltimore really is about the creators, and not just the guys that work for Marvel, DC, and Dark Horse. Baltimore's Artist Alley is phenomenal, and I was fortunate enough to meet some super-talented people.

Like David Gallaher and Steve Ellis, creators of the excellent High Moon series.

And the Harvey Award-nominated Fraim brothers, Brendon and Brian, who's work includes the fantastic strip, Antiques, The Waiting Place, and most recently, a book we showcased here on a past Waiting for Wednesday, Vampire, PA.

Since meeting them in Baltimore, I've kept up on the Fraims' projects and I've followed their work.

Well, here's the part where my post starts to mesh up with its title. This past week, I took my own advice (check the end of that Waiting for that I mentioned) and commissioned the brothers.

I won the Black Canary piece at the top of this post on eBay, and I decided to go ahead and bug Brendon and Brian for more art. Here's an example of the outstanding work these guys produce, in a classic, clean, and beautiful style.
Perfect, no? So let me repeat myself, because these guys are just so good at what they do, and they're incredibly easy to work with. Please check out this page for the Fraims' (eye-poppingly low) rates, and do yourself a favor and get them to draw you something.

You won't regret it.

Happy Sunday, everyone.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Moving Day II

By the time you read this, I may no longer be here. I may instead be...there.

I'm moving. Again. Or perhaps I've already moved. The relocation of my entire life from one place to another. And you know what I realize? Many of these things I do not want to move.

This goes beyond the feeling of, "oh, it's heavy, and I don't want to pack any more boxes." My legacy to myself is that I was a pack rat for the first two and a half decades of my life, and I've been gradually weeding through the nonessentials ever since...while still adding more and more geeky collectibles and electronic media to my collection of stuff. Y'know, the kind of stuff that is acceptable to hoard.

Packing up the CDs and the DVDs and the video games and the Mega Man figurines and the Star Trek ships...that was satisfying. Packing up the comics was nice, but I wondered how many of those I'd actually go back and read. Packing up the old textbooks from my college courses felt more like an obligation--many of them I've never even opened (because the teachers never ended up using them, mind you), but I hang on to them in case I ever find a renewed interest in the subject matter or need them as reference material for a job some day.

I'm even becoming detached from my posters, which were previously some of my favorite things. The variety of adhesives I've resorted to using over the years has taken its toll on many of them, and even the easy-to-remove 3M tape with the pull tabs is known to get stuck and tear the paper on occasion.

I could frame my posters, but that would be impractical and expensive, not to mention that some of my favorite posters are already worn enough that they just wouldn't look right in a frame. I try to handle them gently and treat them with care, but I know that every time I move, I roll that die to see whether my posters will succeed on their Fortitude save and last through another home.

I am deeply grateful for the help I've received in packing and moving, because I have accumulated more than I know what to do with, and I need other people to help me get everything sorted out. When I unpack my boxes this time, I don't plan to take everything for granted--I plan to give my stuff the critical attention it's long been due, so that the next time I move, I won't have to deliberate over packing the items I don't want and don't need...because they'll already be gone.

I think I'm finally ready to let go of the notion that the things I haven't touched in years might someday come in handy, and justify the decades they've spent gathering dust and taking up space. I'm a sentimental collector, so it's not as though I'll be tossing entire boxes out the window all willy-nilly, but I think it's time that I sat down and had a talk with the pretty set of colorful markers that dried up in the mid-90's.

I don't know where my priorities will be in the future, but I know where they are now, and it's where they've always been. I think it's telling that the rings my fiancée and I will wear when we get married are packed away safely with my Nintendo games, to make sure that nothing happens to them.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Exfanding Radar: It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

I don't watch a whole lot of TV. Currently, I can count the number of shows I watch regularly on one hand. Community, The Office, 30 Rock, and, um, True Blood.

Sure, every now and then I'll catch an episode of something on FOX where Gordon Ramsey is yelling at people, mostly because that's just good for the soul.

But for the most part, if the television's on, it's because I'm watching a baseball game.

And if there's a show that seems to be up my alley, I'll just wait for the season to end and I'll buy the DVD. No commercials. No waiting a whole week for the next episode.

Just keep on watching until I fall asleep.

Most times, because I'm pretty clueless about most things, someone needs to recommend a show to me before I even find out about its existence. Like, say, Firefly.

In the case of the FX show, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, I didn't even know that FX was a channel. Exfanding reader Dr. Nick had to bring the existence of both things--the show and the channel--to my attention.

Honestly, though, I still have no idea where FX is on cable, so instead, I've taken to buying and watching the DVDs as each season comes out.

Last night, I finished up season 5 of the show, and I can't wait for season 6 to hit stores (by which I mean Amazon) in September. I've held off on writing about the series for so long because I'm always uncomfortable writing about the things I love the most.

Like The Goon or even Firefly, I want to make sure that I do right by them in my review. And because I'm so bad at reviews...well, you see where I'm going with this.

Also, in the case of Sunny, it's really hard to describe what the show is about.

Ostensibly, it revolves around The Gang--Charlie, Mac, Dennis, Sweet Dee, and Frank--and, for lack of a more eloquent description, they go on a series of whacky adventures.

Like that time they (tried to go) to the Grand Canyon. Or when Charlie and Mac faked their own deaths. Or when Frank and Dee became door to door knife and vacuum salesmen. Or when Charlie created Kitten Mittens.
The short summary is this, really. Mac and Dennis own a bar in Philly--Paddy's--and Charlie is the janitor. Sweet Dee is Dennis' brother and she also works at the bar. Frank, played by Danny DeVito, is Dee and Dennis' father.

Although they do everything together and claim to be best friends (and, in the case of Dee, Dennis, and Frank, actual family members), The Gang's apathy towards one another is on the same level as their staggering cluelessness about the world in general.

They're not good people, they don't ever try to be good people, and they think everyone else is stupid. To say that they act with a reckless abandon is like saying Americans like football or that Sam Kinison liked to yell.

The Gang's actions are usually criminal and borderline psychotic. Until, of course, they're 100% psychotic. Sunny takes that old, wonderful trope of "main character has hair-brained scheme" and cranks it up to a level not seen before on television.

The plots are absurd, such as the one when The Gang decides to copy the good deeds of Extreme Home Makeover in order to get good vibes sent their way because Dee skimmed The Secret.

What begins as an awful and dangerous idea ends up as a horrifying terrorist-like kidnapping of an innocent family.

But, as it always does on Sunny, hilarity ensues.

I have honestly never laughed to the point of near-vomiting over anything before I watched the episode where The Gang takes a road trip. I swear to you that I fell off the couch, holding my stomach.

When does that ever happen?

Avant-garde, raunchy, messed up, manic, and always, always the funniest thing I've seen on any given day, Sunny has ruined all my other favorite shows. Because it's just so much better, and funnier, than anything else on TV.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Race to 3,000 Hits

This past Saturday, I was home for a grand total of about an hour. But I made that hour count, let me tell you.

Lately, my weekends have been just as busy as my weekdays, and usually filled with things like work This past weekend was no different, but I did manage to watch the one thing I told myself I wouldn't miss, no matter what.

The New York Yankees were playing the Tampa Bay Rays at 1:00, and the Yankees' captain, future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter, was only 2 hits away from amassing 3,000 for his career.

That number is a magical one in baseball, along with 500 home runs, a .400 batting average, and 300 wins for a starting pitcher.

I've watched Derek Jeter since I was a kid, and I've grown up watching him play. I was in middle school (I think) when he broke into the Big Leagues, and Jeter's one of the first players that I've followed from the very beginning of his career.

Jeter has often said that Yankees fans watched him grow up, too, from an 18-year-old kid in the team's Minor League system to the 5-time World Champion he is today.

So the moment itself was going to be cool enough. But, because of my schedule, I just didn't think I'd be able to get in front of a TV to catch Jeter's historic at bat.

And that would have sucked.

But, as these things tend to go, it looked like I might just catch a break, after all. As I got in the car between running here and there, I caught John Sterling mentions Jeter's first at bat.

He'd singled in the first inning. He was one hit away.

The Yankees were up at that point, somewhere in the middle of their lineup, five or six spots away from Jeter hitting again. "Okay," I thought, "I might actually be able to see this live."

I figured that Jeter wouldn't hit in the current inning, so I would have these 3 outs, plus the Rays' turn at the plate in the top of the next inning. I was right. The Yankees' put a couple of guys on base before the inning ended.

The Rays would hit, and then the next inning would be Brett Gardner leading off, followed by Jeter.

"I can do this," I thought.

Well, of course, the Rays went down quickly in their half, and when the broadcast went to commercial and I had just reached the exit on the highway, my hopes started to sink.

I'd, a bit, on the highway just to get here. Now, with probably less than 5 minutes before Jeter's turn at the plate and at least 10 minutes before I could actually get in front of the closest TV...

Things weren't looking too good.

"Gardner needs to have a long at bat," I muttered as I gripped the wheel. Of course, he didn't. Before I could get halfway home, he had 2 strikes on him. Of course he did.

What happened next is probably best not spoken of, but somehow, some way, I burst through the front door just as Jeter was standing in the batter's box. After a long, tough at bat, Jeter launched a slider into the left-field seats and he rounded the bases as baseball's newest member of the 3,000 hit club.

What's more, I got to watch it with my father and my brother, as I've done for pretty much my entire life.

And that made the race (and the various speed limit laws I violated) worth it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Waiting for Wednesday, Volume 3, Issue 28

Still not really in the mood to talk comics for an extended period of time, but I definitely wanted to at least mention the new teaser poster for the upcoming (and highly anticipated) The Dark Knight Rises.
Not giving away much, are they? Nor do they have to, as the teaser for The Dark Knight was very much in the same vein. And that film did just fine. The Rises poster brings to mind a couple of things (Inception, anyone?), most notably a possible link to the comics story, "Cataclysm," which ran through the Batman titles in 1998.

We already know that Bane is the main villain, and that Selina Kyle/Catwoman will play a role. Director Chris Nolan can do whatever he wants with the character--follow the comics, or not--and I'll be there on opening night.

See? Exfanding can bring somewhat up-to-date news to the masses. On occasion. Two days after everyone else. Stop laughing at us. We're good people.

Moving right along...

I did want to mention one book that I'm really looking forward to this week. And, despite its title, it's a book that makes me happy just thinking about it. From Image Comics and writer S. Steven Struble and artist Sina Grace, The Li'l Depressed Boy, issue 5, ships to stores today.
Featuring a cover by Chew's Rob Guillory, issue 5 could not have arrived fast enough after the conclusion to the previous issue. We didn't leave our hero in the best of situations, and I've been dying to find out what the fallout will be.

Very rarely does a book stay with me like this one does. The themes, the characters, the tone, the conversations. I think I speak for a whole lot of readers when I say that it feels like this book is being written for me.

It's an easy choice for my favorite comic of 2011 so far, and you can throw all of the cross-overs and deaths and "deaths" you want at me from the Big Two. If you're looking for some heart, and some meaning, and something real in your comics, give LDB a shot.

Here's the solicitation information from Image for today's issue:

"HISTORY OF A BORING TOWN" Even when the sun doesn't shine on the Li'l Depressed Boy, he can count on his Drew Blood to cheer him up. Pack your bags! It's time for a road trip. Featuring a cover by fan favorite and CHEW artist extraordinaire ROB GUILLORY!

Go back and check out the first trade, which collects issues 1 through 4. It's available now, and it's under $10 bucks.

With that, I need to hit the road myself. Before I do, though, what are you Waiting for?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Countdown to Moving Day

Packed another box
Wrote a haiku for a post
Yup, feels like progress

Monday, July 11, 2011

Re-Reading The Lord of the Rings for the First Time

I have a confession to make.

I've never read The Lord of the Rings. From beginning to end, I mean.

Now, now. Stop yelling. Let me explain.

You see, I've started each of the three books, and obviously, I've seen the films and the cartoons, and I'm pretty well-versed in Tolkien lore. I just...haven't read all of the trilogy.

But, as one astute reviewer from The Sunday Times wrote in the year of publication, "the English-speaking world is divided into those who have read The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit and those who are going to read them."

And people like me, of course, who have started and stopped while reading, but will one day (soon) manage to read them from start to finish.

Now, let me be clear here.

It's not that I don't like the books, or that I don't enjoy Tolkien's writing. Quite the opposite, actually, as I'll get to in a moment. The reasons I've failed in each previous attempt to read the trilogy are myriad, but they can usually be summed up by, "There just wasn't enough time in the day."

So, last week, figuring that I've literally never been busier in my entire life, I decided to pick up my copy of The Fellowship of the Ring and just start in on it.

Sure, after an initial hour-plus read on a lazy Sunday afternoon, I've pretty much only had the time to read about 5 pages a night before falling asleep. But who cares if it'll take me a year to finish the books this time around?

As it's done in the past, Fellowship managed to completely engulf my mindspace from page one. I'm enjoying leaving the Shire once again and journeying ever onward.

Let's just hope it takes me less time to read all three books than it took Frodo to get to Mordor.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

1001 Posts and 36 Ewoks

Ladies and gentlemen, this is our 1001th (1001st?) post.


We've already done plenty of self-serving pat-on-the-back posts in the past, to celebrate the blog's birthday and how many hits we'd gotten, but I don't think we've ever kept track of the amount of content we've produced.

This is the part of the post where I'd astound you with a page count or word count, but I presumably have better things to do with my time than SIX MILLION FIFTY! That's the number of words we, uh, might have written. Those of you looking for an accurate number are out of luck, but I can offer some inaccurate numbers based on a cleverly lazy examination of the 1000 posts leading up to this one:

467 pages

832,816 words

36 Ewoks

Do bear in mind that these numbers are pulled from a massive Word document where I copy/pasted the entirety of the blog in HTML format (with all its
's and 's) and trimmed out everything from the header, footer, sidebar, and comments section. Also, I ran the numbers before yesterday's post was published, so the document I had technically comprised only 999 posts. At any rate, accuracy is not the primary focus here; self-congratulatory back-patting is.

Well done, us.

While I've got this massive document open, I think it's highly appropriate to look back through this blog's first 999 posts, which cover everything from orchids to Tally Hall to Pinocchio: Vampire Slayer, and have some fun with statistics.

- When identifying one of this blog's writers by name, 68% of the time we're talking about Alex.

- Contrary to the popular belief that I talk about my favorite video game too much, the name "Mega Man" is only mentioned 942 times. References to three of Alex's favorite things--Batman, baseball, and the Beatles--come to a grand total of...886. I'm not obsessed.

- The colon is 28% more popular than the semicolon in our posts. Compare this to George Orwell's famously light-on-semicolons Coming Up for Air, which favors the colon by a whopping 82%.

- Pirates outnumber ninjas by about 3 to 1.

- We spelled "apocalypse" correctly exactly 18 times. At least four of these were accomplished without referring to the spell check.

- Elvis shows up twice on the blog. Three times, if you count that Elvis impersonator.

- Of the 39 direct references to Abe Lincoln, 12 of them are preceded by the word "Zombie."

- DC Comics is referenced 587 times, while Marvel Comics is referenced 775 times. That adds up to 1362, which is the year when Louis I of Hungary defeated and captured Ivan Sratsimir of Bulgaria, according to Wikipedia. I'm sure there's a significance in that somewhere.

- Lastly, and this probably goes without saying: There is only one William Shatner.

Whether you've been here for all 1001 posts or you're just the daughter of a vizier who stopped by to pick up some stories to tell your husband tonight, we're glad you've stuck with us. I sincerely hope that we'll be able to write another thousand posts, because I'd hate to lose the opportunity to call a post "2001: A Blog Odyssey" and get away with it.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Best Thing in Wrestling

There's something you should know about me. I'm a wrestling fan.

Sure, I don't follow it as closely as I used to, and I don't follow it nearly as closely as I (crazily) follow comics, but I am, without a doubt, a wrestling fan.

I've always been a WWE guy, starting with Hulk Hogan when I was a little kid and then coming back for Steve Austin.

But, as I've said in the past, my favorite wrestler is, was, and always will be Shawn Michaels. (See what I did there? If you're a wrestling fan, you probably see how clever I am.)

Now, I've written about wrestling a few times in the past, including the heartwarming tale of my "meeting" Mick Foley, but I've been meaning to write about it more often.

Because, like baseball and comics, wrestling has pretty much always been there with me. I watched it weekly through the late 1990s and the "Attitude Era" in WWE, where superstars sometimes said quasi-curse words, and there were exceedingly violent matches.

The characters during that era, though, were what kept me interested. They were, after all, pretty amazing. Stone Cold and The Rock, Triple H and The Undertaker. Jericho, the Hardys, Trish Stratus.

It was a classic time in wrestling, for sure.

I was really into it when Shawn Michaels made his return in the 2000s, but I drifted for several years and didn't follow things again until The Heartbreak Kid had his last match at Wrestlemania 26.

When I came back (again), I found that I wasn't taken by the characters. Lots of guys seemed to be derivative. Lots of knock-offs of old heroes. Steve Austin's character was so special because he tip-toed the line of good guy and bad guy, baby face and heel.

He played it down the middle, and dangerous, and people liked that. They related to that. It's why not a one of us can relate to Superman, but we can all relate to Batman.

The world is full of grey areas, and Austin's character lived in that grey area. And he made more money for the company than anyone else, ever.

Recently, WWE has leaned towards the cookie-cutter good guys and the typical bad guy wrestlers, with story angles reminiscent of the 1980s. Good for the kiddies; not so much for the adults.

And, of course, it's the adults who shell out the $40 bucks (!) on the once-a-month Pay-Per-View events, wherein all the major angles are resolved. (Personally, I order Wrestlemania, and that's it. I think last year, that show, in HD, cost nearly $70.)

While that very PG attitude is admirable, I guess, it's also kinda boring for longtime fans.

Just like in comics, the wrestling fanbase is getting older, and they've seen it all before. And if you've seen it before, you don't need to see it again. The wrestling fan wants new, and different, and, frankly, shocking.

Enter CM Punk.

Criminally underused by WWE decision makers, Punk is new, and different, and exciting. And shocking. His in-ring talent is unquestioned, and his ability on the microphone is up there with the greatest of all time.

An Indy legend, Punk has had the respect of the hardest of the hardcore fans for years.

He should be wearing the Championship belt. He should be on TV a whole lot more than he is. But that's not what I want to talk about, because I could go on forever. Recently, it's been announced that Punk is leaving WWE at the end of his current contract.

A couple of weeks ago on WWE's Monday Night Raw TV show, Punk cut a promo telling fans exactly why he's leaving.

The best wrestling promos integrate elements of both the character's fictional story line and the wrestler's real feelings. Punk's promo did that, possibly better than any other promo I've ever seen.

Below you'll find that promo in its entirety.

Real or fake, or somewhere in between, it's the thing that's made WWE must-see television again. More importantly, though, it's made wrestling relevant again.


Friday, July 8, 2011

Staggering in its Absurdity, More So in its Stupidity

Did you hear about the protest at the (fast approaching) Comic-Con in San Diego this year? You know, the one with great social relevance and nobility behind its inception?

No? Really?

Oh, right. I forgot.

That's probably because there isn't one. With the social relevance and the nobility, I mean.

What there will be, however, is a protest by (insane) fans (who have nothing better to do, apparently), in an effort to stop DC Comics from relaunching their titles in the fall.

Let me repeat that, just in case you haven't had your coffee yet.

A group of fans will be lined up outside of San Diego Comic-Con this year, protesting the relaunch of the entire line of DC comics later this year.

A protest. Over DC's relaunch in the fa--


Don't worry, though. As with all nut jobs, they have a (slightly grammatically incorrect) mission statement. Oh, yes. They do.

From their now-defunct Facebook page:

Are you utterly baffled, disappointed and just ANGRY to see how DC ruins your favorite character's design and wipes decades of comic history out of the mainstream universe? Well, you're not alone!

And why not make some noise at the biggest pop-culture event this year, where creators, artists and writers appear in person - show them how fans - the fans of the classic characters, the (nevertheless slightly changing) designs, the character's history and personality - really feel about it!

There was a time, we used to protest things like war, and unfair treatment of workers. Now, we protest a comic company relaunching their line of books.


I guess this year's "protest" is so disappointing to me, because of what happened at the Con last year.

A fanatical and media attention-seeking group protested Comic-Con in 2010, brandishing hateful signs and just being mean, really. They did so to make the news, of course. But instead, the story of that particular day was the counter-protest, held by convention-goers, who held up their own, hilarious and on-the-nose signs.

It was a wonderful showing of geek culture triumphing and standing up to hate speech. Hate speech, mind you, that had gone pretty much uncontested (at least by counter-protesters) to that point.

It really was a great moment, and news outlets--instead of reporting on the funny costumes and using taglines like, "Bif, Bam, Pow!"--focused on the creativity, and the heart, of what comics- and geekdom can be about.

This year? Not so much. This year, we'll protest DC Comics.

Again, I say, *sigh*.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Community of One

I'm finding that most of my social interaction anymore is online, and I'm not sure how I feel about that. I still get to see friends and family on occasion, but most of my outside-of-work, non-fiancée conversations are with total strangers. As I write this blog post, I am potentially striking up a conversation with you, and we may not even be acquainted.

Between the folks who sporadically comment on this blog, the GameCola staff I work with, and the Friends and Subscribers who hang out on my YouTube channel, I get a pretty solid social fix, aside from the fact that they're all imaginary. strangers. Although I have met a few of the GameCola staff members in real life, is a friendship or acquaintanceship any less valid without the face-to-face element?

I'm finding that it's easier to stay in contact with the people I've never met who make up my YouTube community than with most of my friends. I am exceptionally bad at keeping in touch with individuals over the Internet, and I suspect it's because of the investment involved in keeping the communication going on a one-on-one basis.

If two people carry a table somewhere, both of them need to put in roughly equal effor to keep it moving. It's fine to take a rest or for one person to shoulder more of the weight for a while, but when one side drops, there's not a whole lot the other person can do to pick it back up. Long-distance communication between individuals is, in my mind, a lot like carrying a table.

Keeping in touch with a community, on the other hand, is like having a bunch of people carrying the table. People can take turns carrying the table, and even if some of the people carry more of the weight, the table doesn't come crashing down if one of them suddenly leaves. I have some fond memories of carrying tables with my close friends, but I also appreciate being able to step back and watch a table essentially carry itself for a while.

There's a certain comfort in knowing that things go on without you. I am in the process of packing everything up and moving to a place I had never visited up until a few weeks ago, but my online community will still be there, same as always. Meanwhile, keeping in touch with the friends I'm leaving behind will require active effort on both our parts, and I can tell you from previous experience that I'm usually the one left holding the table.

More accurately, perhaps, I'm usually the one making offers to carry the table again. My general offer is that I'm always here; just drop me a line if you want to talk or hang out. If I were a character in The Sims, you'd notice that my Social meter fills up pretty quickly and depletes fairly slowly--I'm perfectly content to spend days or even weeks with minimal social interaction, which is why I rely on others to initiate conversation and propose get-togethers. I get wrapped up in my own activities and side projects, and it's all too easy not to look up from them until I desperately feel the need for company.

That could be why I'm so active in my YouTube community--making these videos and responding to comments are fun side projects, and by keeping on top of them, I'm keeping in touch with people. Two-for-one deal. I get my crucial Me Time and I get my essential social fix. I can very happily be a community of one.

I wonder if that's the key to maintaining regular communication in a long-distance friendship: integrating communication into your routine so that it doesn't feel like any extra effort is required to stay connected.

Alex and I only get to see each other about once a month, but we stay in constant e-mail contact primarily because of this blog. A lot of our exchanges are something to the effect of, "Hey, did you write a post for today?" "Wait, what? I thought you were supposed to post!", but we're still e-mailing at least once every few days. Even when there's nothing particularly new or interesting going on in our lives, we've got something to prompt us to stay in touch.

That being said, I've got a backlog of e-mails to respond to from my other friends, most of them involving Korean pop music videos. I might do better if I actually replied to people when they took me up on my offer to drop me a line.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Waiting for Wednesday, Volume 3, Issue 27

Sometimes, you work so hard for something that, when it becomes within reach, you almost can’t believe that it’s happening. Still, you go about your daily business; your work, your life, your routine.

Everything is, essentially, how it was in the weeks before, but, somehow, different.

Because you know that there’s the possibility for something new, something different. Something that’s been in the back of your mind for almost a decade now. Something that has always seemed too good to ever be true, or possible, or real.

I’ve been living in a weird, surrealistic world for the past month or so, on the cusp of having something happen to me that would have truly been...well, it would have been a dream come true.

Quite literally.

And I worked so hard for it to happen—or, at least, to get to the point where the possibility of it happening was actually tangible—that, when I found out yesterday that it wasn't going to happen...I was just numb.

It’s hard to wrap my head around the fact that the thing—The One Thing—that I got into the industry I'm in for was actually, possibly, maybe, going to happen for me.

It’s been a strange few weeks, let me tell you.

In those weeks, I’ve done my best to alienate pretty much everyone I know. Luckily (ha!) I’ve had so much work to do that staying in the office late and on weekends hasn’t really bothered me all that much.

It’s actually been kind of a welcome distraction.

But now, the thing that I was trying my best to distract my attentions from has become the biggest distraction imaginable. I’m typing this, now, instead of doing actual work. Mostly because I don’t feel like doing actual work right now.

And, yep, you guessed it. Unfortunately, I have to be vague about this and I know it’s probably nonsensical and a little frustrating to read. But I need to get it off my chest, and this blog is the best way for me to do that.

And it's utterly appropriate that I air it out in a Waiting for. So, sorry, folks. No comics talk this time. No, thank you.

I don’t much feel like writing about comics today.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Amateur's Guide to Displaying Collectibles

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figures. Hand-painted Warhammer figurines. A painstakingly assembled model Aston Martin. Kitschy convention knickknacks like a Chrono Trigger keychain and chibi Hellsing stickers. There's no end to tangible displays of geekery--but there's a distinct premium on display space.

Unless you have a dedicated He-Man showroom, showing off your geek swag may require a little bit of creativity. There's a fine line between displaying collectibles and putting collectibles wherever there's a bare surface, so allow me to discuss a few options for displaying your belongings in a manner that is both aesthetically appealing and a practical use of space.

Perhaps the most obvious place to start is with any surface that never, ever gets used in any way. If you've got a setup like I do, there should be plenty of space on top of/just in front of major electronics such as a television, a computer, or a computer monitor. Even the floor can be used for display purposes, provided that a newly placed object won't hamper your movement, be eaten by the dog, or mysteriously disappear after you carelessly vacuum the carpet.

Even places that see regular use can become display areas for your collectibles. People don't necessarily use 100% of their coffee table and kitchen table space. Chances are good that there's a ledge or corner in your bathroom or kitchen that could use a dorky touch. Bookshelves that aren't crammed to the edge provide ample space for objects that are easy to see past/move out of the way when you go for a book.

As a rule, I like to keep anything I might spontaneously play around with in an easily accessible location. If you don't mind your guests playing around with your collectibles, a PEZ dispenser next to the lamp or an oversized Transformer that permanently occupies a seat on the couch can provide entertainment when you're entertaining and spark discussion.

Naturally, fragile and irreplaceable items should be solidly placed out of reach and away from the blast radius of a dropped bowl of soup or the reach of Mother Nature--a good blast of wind or a spatter of rain through an open door or window can easily ruin your day, and your priceless origami Predator.

Along those same lines, anything that's particularly small or easy to knock over should be kept in a place where you can quickly retrieve it if it gets pushed around, and where it won't break or knock over something else if it falls. Seems like obvious advice to me, but sometimes you don't think about these things until your prized plastic dinosaur is face-down in the garbage can next to your desk.

If circumstances permit, consider putting the walls and ceiling to work. Wires and string can be draped over a hook and tied around a Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man that can hover in your kitchen. Plastic army men can dangle from a nail just as well as any calendar. Especially if you throw a few glow-in-the-dark stars up there with them, adhesive putties are great for fastening tiny Star Wars ships from the ceiling, as long as the Millennium Falcon doesn't drop out of orbit and onto your head.

If you've got an item you're less-than-proud to own, or any kind of object that you can't bear to toss but don't want to have in plain view at all times, there's no shame in putting something "on display" inside your closet or desk drawer, provided there's enough space to make it look like it's on display and not in time-out. Surprise your visiting relatives with a scandalous Onegai Teacher statuette next to the box of Froot Loops in your pantry. Guard the bottles of shampoo in your upstairs closet with that Bill Gates snowglobe. The possibilities are endless!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Independence Day, 2011

In the truest sense, freedom cannot be bestowed; it must be achieved.
--Franklin D. Roosevelt
Speech, September 22, 1936

Enjoy the holiday, everyone.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

S.978: Don't Panic

I have now received several comments and messages from folks on YouTube warning me about a US Senate Bill called S.978, which, if passed, will result in all of YouTube being shut down, the entire world thrown into jail, and the end of happiness for all eternity.

Exfanding Your Horizons would like to take this opportunity to remind everyone to research the facts before fomenting panic after reading a single article or hearing a single rumor.

I've done some research on this Bill, and I've read a number of news articles ranging from the rational to the wildly overblown. Let me offer my own summary of what I understand about S.978 so that we can have a real discussion about the matter:

- S.978 attempts to increase the penalty for copyright infringement. You still need to be breaking the law in order for it to affect you; Fair Use still applies.

- S.978 attempts to expand and clarify what can be targeted for copyright infringement. You still need to be breaking the law in order for it to affect you; it will just be easier for someone to bring you to court.

- S.978 has enough vague wording that the Bill could potentially apply to many more situations than intended, including the "Let's Play" videos on YouTube that people are so concerned about. More on this in a moment.

- S.978 has not been finalized, approved, or passed into law. No matter how much support it may have, it is still a "What if?" for the time being.

In other words, at some point in the future, there might be negative consequences for breaking the law. As far as the big details relating to the main intent of this Bill go, I'm not concerned.

Regarding the little details about which the Internet is abuzz and about which the lawmakers seem not to care or be aware, I am also not concerned. Should S.978 be passed into law, real people will experience the aftermath, and if there is something deeply flawed with it, I expect it should become apparent pretty quickly.

We're not looking at a situation where Big Bad Government wants to oppress Poor Innocent YouTubers. Anything in conflict with the law is not going to magically disappear overnight. We're not suddenly going to have a legion of lawyers who will have the time and resources prosecute the likes of Little Jimmy Who's Got 72 Views On His "Let's Play Space Invaders" Video. S.978 cannot amend the fundamental nature of the way this nation works.

Even if this bill were to get passed into law as-is, we wouldn't be alone. If game companies big or small valued the free publicity they get from streaming video game tournaments and E3 preview videos, they would no doubt take a stand, or take steps toward accommodating us accordingly. Widespread application of absurd interpretations of the law would more than likely get the attention of folks with more authority and influence than the average person.

Though what I'd really be waiting for, if this situation became a reality, would be the day when one of the people who wrote or approved the Bill was brought to court for their cell phone ringtone violating the law as an "unauthorized public performance."

Yes, we can be aware of S.978 and make our opinions known about it. But our first reaction shouldn't be to whip everyone around us into a frenzy of fear.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Exfanding Review: Ultimate Spider-Man 160

I wanna get this out of the way right up front--this post will be filled with spoilers. And, while I'll mainly be talking about Ultimate Spider-Man, issue 160, I'll likely reference other storylines in other books that have had major event-type things happen.



Just in case, here are the obligatory


-- -- -- --

-- -- -- --

-- -- -- --

-- -- -- --

-- -- -- --

-- -- -- --

-- -- -- --

-- -- -- --

And, for the especially dense, the SPOILERS START NOW.


So, Ultimate Spider-Man 160. You've probably heard of it. Kind of been in the news, lately. It's the conclusion to the epic storyline, "The Death of Spider-Man," and let me tell you, as far as on-the-nose titles go...this one is, um, very.

On the nose, that is.

Shockingly (in the story entitled, "The Death of Spider-Man," mind you), Spidey bites it in the end. But as is the case with comic book deaths, it's not really about how the character gets it; it's about how the character has made his way to that point.

And the build up to issue 160 was terrific--some of the very best stories that have been told in the series. And that's saying something, because Ultimate Spidey has consistently been one of the best books in comics over the past decade.

Even so, when the moment finally does arrive in issue 160, Peter goes out in a quiet, dignified, and moving way, which is preceeded by a blaze of heroic glory. As far as super hero deaths go, this one is about as appropriate and poignant as you're going to find.

Writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Mark Bagley--the title's original creative team--reunite for this arc wherein they put (Ultimate) Peter Parker and those closest to him through the wringer.

The lead up is excellent, and (I hesitate to call it this, but) the payoff packs a punch. It's an emotional wallop, and though it doesn't hit as hard as other big pop culture-y deaths (Joss Whedon, I'm looking at you), I'm pretty sure that's because this book was essentially spoiled just about a year ago.

And then it was re-spoiled in the mainstream press the day before the issue hit stands.

Which, OK, fine. You want people to know something big is going down, and in order to get them in stores, you need to let them know before the big thing happens.

But here's my question--why, if you've already spoiled the ending--why put the issue in a polybag? Oh, right. So you can sell two copies to fanboys instead of just one. That's seems...familiar, no?

So that's my problem with the book--nothing to do with story, though. Bendis and Bagley delivered just ad I expected them to. But I'm disappointed in the way Marvel went about promoting the book. And, really. How many deaths are we going to get in big Marvel titles this year?

The most important thing about these characters--and, obviously, real people, too--is not how they die. But how they live. It's the stories of their lives that should get us in the comics shops.

Not a polybagged death.