Saturday, June 30, 2012

Coffee and Comics

My mind is officially blown.

I've just found out that there is a coffee shop that displays and sells comics and original comic book art. And it's in my home state, not more than 45 minutes from me. And that ... officially makes my head spin, in a good way.

Well, that's not entirely true, actually.

When I first heard about the place, I was a little bit miffed, mostly because that was, well, that was my idea.

And someone had beaten me to it.

The concept of a coffee shop with comics and comics art as a part of the essence of the place is pretty much my ideal version of a place to go and to hang out in. Throw in a couple bookshelves with lots and lots of books (sans pictures) and put a couple of eReaders on the tables, and--bingo, bango--you've described the joint I'd like to someday own and operate.

It's cool that places like this exist right now, and I hope there's a continued market for them in the future.

I talk a lot about comics being "mainstream" these days, and while it's obviously the case in theaters (especially this summer, with Avengers and Dark Knight Rises), there's still just this tiny little pocket of people who read comics on a weekly basis.

Sure, there are some positive signs with the advent and proliferation of digital comics now available on a wide range of devices, but comic book readers are still a rather small minority of the entertainment-consuming public.

Coffee, on the other hand, is universal. Everyone (except Nathaniel) likes coffee.

So the idea of a coffee/comics shop should work on the basis that you get people in with good coffee, and you keep them there with an interesting and different atmosphere. Using original comic book art, I think, is an exceptionally good idea, as it's something most people don't see very often.

As a buddy of mine said, maybe I shouldn't be so miffed about the fact that "my idea" has been used (successfully) by others ... others who, clearly, never met me, nor ever heard "my" brilliant idea. Instead of being bummed, my buddy just said, "See? At least it's a verification that you're capable of having a good idea every now and then."

Thanks for that, buddy. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Waiting for Wednesday, Volume 4, Issue 26

Well, we've reached the official half-way point of 2012, and I think it's safe to say that it's been a ... different kind of year around the old blog so far. Things have changed a bit, including posting schedules and, well, the kinds of things we've been posting.

 It's pretty hard to wrap my head around the fact that we're now 26 weeks into what has been, in a whole lot of way, a year of changes.

From a new job that started the day after New Year's that has, by all accounts, taken me down an entirely different career path to a new(er) diet that's actually helped me shed a few more pounds to my rediscovery of espresso, it's been a whacky 6 months of 2012.

As for this week's new comics, I'm just now getting back from the shop and I had a couple weeks' worth of books piled up, just waiting for me. I now have (even more) books on my To Read Pile, which is teetering to the point of ridiculousness.

But, hey. Having comics to read is a whole lot better than not having comics to read, right?

Anyway, lots of changes, lots of new content being readied 'round these parts. But at least one thing is guaranteed to stay the same  - Waiting for Wednesday.

So, on that note ... what are you Waiting for?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Productive Evening

Here is what a productive evening looks like (well, to me, at least):

- Visit the hardware store

- Pick up milk

- Swing by the ATM

- Watch an early episode of Saturday Night Live over dinner with the wife

- Record more commentary for my upcoming YouTube playthrough of Space Quest 0: Replicated

- Clean the bathroom, inspired by the janitorial heroics of Roger Wilco

- Add search page thumbnail pictures to more of the articles deep in the GameCola archive

- Confirm that GameFAQs did indeed accept my screenshots from Mega Man: Dr. Wily's Revenge

- Finish the Dragon Warrior IV music ripping project I started months ago, finally adding the soundtrack to my collection and deleting the folder that's been sitting on my desktop all this time

- Write the blog post I'd originally planned to write during lunch (except I got sidetracked with writing a blurb for this month's Q&AmeCola, and was also catching up on the Two Guys from Andromeda's talkthrough of Space Quest III)

- Probably play video games or something before going to bed at a reasonable hour

Well, hot dog! I think I like this flexible new posting model.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sunday Spotlight: Exfanding's New Posting Model

Last Sunday I talked about the preponderance of filler on this blog recently. This Sunday we have a solution: radically revise our posting model.

We've already tried a couple of straightforward ways to help ease the burden of posting regularly off of Alex in particular: I started this Sunday Spotlight column in part to give Alex a guaranteed day off every week; we moved our self-imposed posting deadline from 11 AM to 1 PM; I even put out a call for guest posts to some friends and family, and as you can tell from all those filler posts where there should be an introduction to The Dresden Files, or a Korean pop music primer, this was a roaring success.

Hint hint, you guys.  ;)

All this time we've been fighting to maintain a 7-days-a-week posting schedule, but it's apparent that, between Alex's job obligations and my various side projects, it's infeasible to keep up. The fact that we're halfway through 2012 and still haven't completed our joint retrospective of our posting in 2011 (which was published by January 2 in 2009 and 2010) is a clear sign that we've got too much going on in our spare time, and/or too little spare time to begin with. So, it is with a pang of regret that I announce that, effective immediately, Exfanding Your Horizons will cease posting.

Cease posting every day by 1 PM, that is.

Our new model is as follows: Alex will post Wednesdays and Saturdays. I will post Tuesdays and Sundays. Rather than hold ourselves to a particular deadline, we'll post whenever we're done writing. If we happen to schedule something in advance, we'll aim for it to post at either 11 AM or 1 PM--whichever strikes our fancy. Otherwise, as long as the clock hasn't yet struck midnight, any time is fair game.

As for the rest of the week, Monday, Thursday, and Friday will be for grabs if desired. Posting on these days will be completely optional. As a result, you can expect to see more responses to YouTube comments during my lunch breaks, and heartier posts from the both of us on the days we do post.

We're also extending an open invitation for guest posts. It's been the unspoken rule that we'll consider unsolicited guest posts from anybody who offers, but I'd like to formally state that we will welcome any submissions you'd like to toss our way.

Provided they adhere to our guest posting guidelines, which our subject to change at a whim. 

That's all for now. We'll try this modified posting schedule, and maybe we'll have some more guest posts, too. Enjoy your Sunday, and--unless we're feeling particularly motivated--we'll see you again on Tuesday.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

It's Saturday, and All Is Well

Okay, folks, Nathaniel and I think we have this blogging thing figured out now. Nathaniel will fill you all in tomorrow about our plans moving forward, and we're hoping you guys dig them. So stay tuned for the next 24 hours, okay?

As for today, I just have to post up this video of the latest episode of the WWE YouTube show I help write. I'm particularly proud of this week's show, because it's so, so different than anything we've tried before, and, really, it's pretty Out There ... and I am a big fan of Out There.

We're starting to get some really great feedback from fans about the show, and I'm stoked about the next couple weeks. After that? Well, we'll see, but hopefully we get to stay on board for a while. We knew going in that our writing on the show would be temporary, but we're at a point now where we're hoping "temporary" means another month or two.

We can't control all that, but the more views we get on the episodes, the better. So, yeah. Pretty please take a look ... and, um, you know, thanks, Exfanders, as always. Enjoy!

Oh, also. Looking at the comments on YouTube, this week's show is universally hated by the fans. So that's what I get for being positive for once. Yay.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Amazing Stan Lee-Man

I don't think we could be a blog with a soft spot for comics, video games, and humor without posting the video below, courteously appropriated from

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Missing Some Gory Details, Part 2

[Continued from Part 1]

I like Joss Whedon. Firefly, Serenity, The Avengers, even Alien Resurrection. Yet I'm not one of the legions of fans who insists "Joss Is Boss"; just because he's made one or two things I've really liked doesn't mean that I'll blindly follow him into anything with his name on it. Especially when his name is on a cabin in the woods that my friends refuse to tell me anything about, aside from the fact that IT'S JOSS. WHEDON.

Sorry--I did just say JOSS. WHEDON, right? I thought for a second I'd heard myself say JAMES. CAMERON.

::ahem::  It's primarily the gore that turns me off from horror movies, though even if I can get past that, it's usually the premise or the locations or the characters that do nothing to pique my interest. That's why the Alien films, especially the first one, are such big exceptions--it's space, it's characters with enough brains and muscle to stay alive by more than sheer luck, and it's more often a psychological horror of what might happen than what actually does happen.

That's why I sighed along with the other characters in the booth when "Zombie Redneck Torture Family" (or whatever they were called--I'm quoting Wikipedia here), was selected from the list of monsters that would terrorize the visitors to the cabin in the woods. If there's one monster that has been overdone--and if there's one monster I can barely tolerate in the first place--it is the unsubtle zombie. Perhaps that was the point. Another zombie movie. In my experience, Joss Whedon doesn't do anything entirely straightforward, and creating a parody of the horror genre that was, in itself, still a legitimate horror movie, was quite clever.

At least, I'm assuming that's what he did--I had my eyes closed half the time. I cannot handle slashy gore, and that's what you get with zombies. Come back to me when zombies can fire rocket launchers and accidentally shake themselves apart with the concussion.

As a side note, my squeamish tendencies have helped me to develop a "something horrible is about to happen" radar, and I've gotten extremely good at anticipating when a big scare is about to occur--and my rate of guessing when it's just going to be a cheap fright is about 50%. With Joss Whedon, however, I have unfortunately developed a more specialized radar: the "Joss Whedon is about to impale someone" radar. It activated itself for the first time after Serenity, started blipping slowly in The Avengers, and went into overdrive in Cabin in the Woods. I'm onto you, Joss.

Ultimately, I didn't like The Cabin in the Woods. I recognized Joss's signature humor and the clever twists on the genre, but I couldn't fully appreciate them because of one key component that was a total turnoff: the gore. For an hour and a half, I was like a motion-sick asthmatic trapped in a car with locked windows driven by a tipsy smoker. Doesn't matter how good the scenery or conversation are in that kind of situation.

A few weeks later, I saw The Hunger Games. Suddenly, I liked Cabin a whole lot more.

Both movies have a similar premise: People live and die on national television for the entertainment of the masses, trapped in an arena controlled by others who have the power to gently or forcibly impact how matters are unfolding. Aside from the obvious differences of style, casting--pretty much everything, really--Hunger Games was considerably more depressing than Cabin in the Woods. When the technicians crank the heat to encourage two characters to throw their clothes off--leaving them unprepared for a zombie attack--it's kinda funny. When the technicians light a forest on fire to push one character unprepared into a fight with some other "Tributes," it's kinda disheartening. Curious how such similar actions can have such a different emotional impact on the viewer, depending on the context.

When basically everybody dies in Cabin in the Woods (seriously, this is not a spoiler--it's a horror movie), there may be a pang of regret for any of the characters you kinda liked, but by the very nature of the genre, it's unlikely and/or inadvisable to get very attached to anyone. If anything, you get attached to the concept, or the villain(s), or the overall situations that lead to such creative, horrific deaths.

When basically everybody dies in Hunger Games (seriously, this is not a spoiler--it's a movie about people killing each other to death), there's this lingering feeling of emptiness--especially when the survivors turn around at the end of the movie and put a happy face on everything that's happened (OK, that is a spoiler). The characters are at the heart of the movie, and there is no victory in lying to oneself after all that suffering and senseless loss. I know there's a bigger picture with two more books in the series to be turned into movies, but I've looked ahead at the plot synopses of them, and I really don't see anything compelling about sticking around for them.

I'm generally more critical of serious and depressing movies than I am of any other kind, because I'm the type of moviegoer who wants to laugh, smile, and generally take a break from anything serious and depressing in real life. However, if I am intellectually or emotionally enriched by the experience, I don't care what kind of movie it is.

The Hunger Games had all the right ingredients to spark discussions of politics and morality, pique one's curiosity in a richly developed fictional world, even inspire the audience to stand up against dubious authority...but it ended up being an unsatisfying 2-1/2 hours spent in a fictional world centered around the Hunger Games arena (in contrast to having the story be centered around the arena; it's a subtle difference, but a significant one), with characters who have just enough personality for you to feel sorry for them when tragedy strikes, and who constantly submit to power and authority they cannot or will not challenge. No matter how many individual moments or aspects of the film I may have liked, ultimately I felt hollow and thoroughly unenriched. No thought-provoking message; no triumph of good over evil; no success other than, "well, some of you didn't die."

If you don't connect with the characters, don't get absorbed in the world, and don't think about the film beyond the walls of the story, it doesn't matter who survives.

That being said, The Hunger Games helped me to look beyond the uncomfortable parts of The Cabin in the Woods to more clearly see the film's merits. Sure, it was gory, but it creatively used those same elements that appeared in The Hunger Games to make a truly unique contribution to the horror and parody genres, all the while being a generally fun and entertaining piece of cinema under all that oozy blood. The farther away I got from that nauseating feeling I had while watching the film, and the more I compared it to The Hunger Games, the more I appreciated what Cabin in the Woods achieved. But I still can't say I liked it.

So, the next time my wife says I only like sci-fi action movies where stuff blows up, I can now point to one or two more movies and say, "nuh-uh."

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Waiting for Wednesday, Volume 4, Issue 25

Well, I'm off to the golf course. Not to play, mind you, as that would be a bad idea. No, no, today, I'm heading out to a PGA Pro-Am event to cover Booker T, one of WWE's wrestlers who will be playing in the charity event.

So there will be no trip to the local comics shop today, but that's okay, because I'm looking forward to the golf event, even though it'll be near 100 degrees today with the heat index (whatever that is).

It's funny; all the local news channels are talking about how hot it's gonna be and how summer has arrived and what precautions you can take against the heat. I'm assuming one of those precautions is, "Don't carry camera bags around for 18 holes of gold on a shadeless course."

That's probably an Unwritten Rule of 100-degree days, though.

So, while I'm out there doing my best not to succumb to heatstroke, you enjoy your air-conditioned comic book store. And while you're there, consider picking up a book from Image Comics called Mind the Gap. Issue number two comes out this week, but you should be able to find copies of issue one.

It's the story of a young woman who has mysteriously been attacked and falls into a coma. The first issue introduces her friends and family and does a good job of establishing a mysterious external threat. The dialogue is snappy and it sounds like the way people talk; the art is great and expressive; and most important, the story has me ready for more.

There was a strange shipping glitch to some stores last week, so the bulk of comics shops should be getting their copies of issue two today. Be sure to check it out.

Okay, I'm off on the road. Wish me luck, Exfanders. But, before I go ... what are you Waiting for?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

And Then the Weekend Happened ... Kinda

Yep. I forgot to have a post ready for today. And, now that it's 3:30 ... well, you know how it goes. I have a pretty decent excuse this time, though.

I ... did not have a weekend this weekend. Instead, I worked straight through, and got home Monday morning at 2:00 AM. Sound crazy? Sure it does, because it is.

My next couple of weeks are going to be in a similar vein of crazy, and the points Nathaniel brought up the other day about the issues we're having keeping on point here are especially valid.

For the record, I do not want to stop the blog. And, if we can at all manage it, I'd love to keep a daily schedule. Now, you know full well what's coming next, don't ya? For the first time since we started all this, I'm getting the feeling that we may not be able to keep up that pace anymore.

My schedule is always changing, and, honestly, being able to sit down and write a blog post every other day just isn't feasible for the near future. Once I get through these next couple of weeks, maybe things will lighten up, but I just don't think so.

Personally, if the choice is to stop blogging or to blog at a decent rate, when we have time (and something to write about), I'd much rather post up something of substance instead of something fluffy.

Though, to be honest, sometimes fluffy is good.

I really can't imagine not having the blog, so I'm not even going to think about that. For now, Nathaniel and I will try to figure out what we're gonna do. Hang tight, Exfanders. We're working on it! 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Missing Some Gory Details, Part 1

I've been watching a lot of movies lately thanks to Netflix, and I was recently chided by my wife for only liking sci-fi action movies where stuff blows up. This accusation came after watching a string of movies together where our opinions varied drastically--of particular note: Repo! The Genetic Opera and The Terminator.

My wife adores Repo! for its soundtrack and intriguing story. I think rather highly of Terminator for its clever concept and execution. Both feature a fair amount of gore and violence. I can handle most of what Terminator throws at the viewer, but there are a few moments--while cool--that are a little much for me, so I'll usually look away from the screen for a couple of seconds. I am incredibly squeamish where sharp objects and flowing blood are concerned, and especially when a huge component of a story is repossessing people's organs, you can imagine how quickly I walked away from Repo! Everything Is Sharp and Gooey. My wife couldn't wrap her head around how I could like one dark movie where almost everybody dies in a grisly way, and not another dark movie where only some people die in a grisly way.

There's a fundamental difference between what we both find to be too gory to stomach. There's no obvious reason why I can very comfortably go out to a shooting range but can barely handle my own kitchen knife without panicking a little. Some things bother us more than others, and it's not always logical or simple to explain. When I look at Terminator, I see an interesting story peppered with plenty of action, some of which is kinda gross. When I look at Repo!, it's not individual moments of grossness, but a pervasive atmosphere comprised of concepts, images, and even particular words that keep my stomach churning. No matter how interesting the story may have been, I couldn't overcome my involuntary gut reaction to the subject matter.

Such was the case with The Cabin in the Woods:

All my friends: "But it's Joss Whedon!"

Me: "But it's a horror movie!"

(after the film)

All my friends: "Joss Whedon, that was awesome!"
Me: "[bluh.]"

We'll take a closer look later this week; seems I've run out of time to finish this up today.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sunday Spotlight: Blogger Bluffing

We have been posting a lot of filler on this blog recently. For me, it's been an increased focus on other projects and a number of partially successful attempts to start writing posts shortly before our extended daily deadline. For Alex, it's been work. Not long ago we had The Talk; the one that all collaborative duos need to have at some point during their careers: How strongly do we want to keep doing this?

At the time, I was absolutely fed up with everything technological, and would've been content to simply walk away from the Internet for a good long time (I've mellowed considerably since then). It wouldn't have taken much persuading for me to walk away from the blog--wrap up all the loose ends of posts we still wanted to write and say farewell. Judging from Alex's posts at the time, I assumed he wouldn't have minded taking his mind off of regular posting to focus on work and whatever else he had going.

Evidently, we're still here.

It's clear to me that this blog is not something that either of us truly wants to abandon. It's a forum to geek out, voice opinions, share the cool things that interest us. It's cathartic. It's the best way for the two of us as friends to stay in touch. It's also a routine, and once something's a routine, it's easy to cop out as long as you're still technically checking it off your list.

I've been a bachelor with a sink full of dishes; I know what I'm talking about.

Committing to a daily posting routine is a huge contributing factor in why we're still here. Sticking to a routine keeps the momentum going. The occasional filler post is a small price to pay for ensuring this well-oiled blogging machine keeps running. But...what happens when we start oiling the machine with fluff?

We get really bizarre metaphors, is what.

I wonder sometimes what our readers think about the way we've been posting recently, with all the excuses and apologies and fleeting glimpses at what's going on. I wonder whether they're as antsy as we are to get back to more substantial posts about the fandoms we love, and whether this chapter of the blog's history is one worth keeping up with every day. In the long run, would our readers do better to wait for the Month in Review, where the "real" posts are clearly marked? Should we keep posting every day, even on the days when the posts barely count? Or would we be better off with a sporadic posting schedule, saving up our writing mojo for the days when we can take the time to craft what we most want to write?

I don't have any answers; I'm only posing the questions. For now, we'll keep plugging along as best we can, bluffing our way through daily posting where necessary. And maybe, on days like today, we can post some fluff and make a suitable pillow out of it.

Because that's what we're aiming to make these days with our well-oiled metaphor.

Saturday, June 16, 2012


Somebody was supposed to post today...

Friday, June 15, 2012

Mega Man: Dr. Wily's Revenge Screenshot Gallery

Having previously shared with you my screenshots for Mega Man 3 and Mega Man 10, it's only fitting that I should contribute screenshots to GameFAQs from yet another Mega Man game I'm really not so fond of: Dr. Wily's Revenge. Funny how that works.

This time, I found myself with a surplus of screenshots for a GameCola review I'd written; rather than let the unused images go to waste, I figured I'd take a peek at what GameFAQs had on file. Which, as it turns out, was almost entirely the title screen and stage selection screens.

I didn't go crazy this time around; I uploaded just the pictures I thought might be useful for the review, plus two more from the end of the game that are necessary for any well-rounded screenshot collection. While my contributions here aren't as comprehensive or illustrative as my previous efforts, I think they're helpful additions to the site.

As with any submissions to GameFAQs, these screenshots are intermingled with others by other contributors. You can identify mine as belonging to Flashman85, but feel free to use them as your own--mi screenshot es su screenshot, as they (read: nobody) say. I always appreciate the credit, but as long as you're not making money off of them or making it seem like they were yours to begin with, I don't mind being anonymous.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Replicating the Fun

I'm currently doing the unthinkable: taking a break from recording more Mega Man videos to do a playthrough of Space Quest 0: Replicated for GCDotNet. There's been a lot of Space Quest buzz lately with all the new fangames and the adventure game project by the Two Guys from Andromeda, so I've been both in a mood for some intergalactic janitorial heroics, and thinking more and more about how it's about time I play another adventure game on YouTube.

The original plan was to do a blind playthrough of a random adventure game I'd never played, preferably a very short one. Boring story short, I had serious issues capturing live commentary and the game audio simultaneously for the particular one I'd chosen, and even more serious issues with recording the video footage itself. I turned to SQ0 instead, a fangame I'd only played through once, several years ago. I decided on a style similar to my Deja Vu recording, adding post-commentary, but going for one continuous take for the entire video rather than trying to perfect individual segments. A nice balance of speed and quality, that.

There's plenty of footage I'm going to speed up or edit out--watching someone try a series of unsuccessful puzzle solutions can get dull incredibly quickly--but it was neat to let the camera roll and No constant stopping and restarting to get that boss fight just right. No careful planning to ensure total continuity of video footage between cuts. It was liberating.

It made me remember why I enjoyed recording any videos in the first place--these games are fun to play. Making them look perfect and adding clever commentary only adds to that. I seem to have forgotten recently that, like writing for this blog, I'm really doing this for myself. The fact that other people like it only makes it better.

My playthrough of SQ0 is far from perfect. I botch the words I'm trying to type on occasion. I waste my time on clearly pointless actions. I die. A lot. And those imperfections make it more entertaining than any perfect run I could ever hope to record.

Taking a break from recording Mega Man 7 might have been the best thing I could have done to speed up my recording of Mega Man 7. With a refresher of how enjoyable recording can be, even if I'm still running myself through the wringer to get my showoffery just right, I'm far more inclined to keep on top of this project...and to make sure that the tricks I'm pulling off aren't just nice to look at, but fun to execute.

I think there's hope for me yet.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Waiting for Wednesday, Volume 4, Issue 24

Okay, here's the deal. I've started writing this week's Waiting for on Tuesday evening, so as not to break our 1:00 posting rule. I actually managed to not break the rule with my post about coffee yesterday, so if this puppy sees the light of the Internet by 1:00 today, that's two in a row.

As they say in baseball, if we manage to do that tomorrow, too, that's called a winning streak.

And, despite my recent ... shirking ... of the actual purpose of Waiting for Wednesday of late, today I plan to actually write about a book that comes out this week. Even more shocking, it's published by Marvel, a company that I have been pretty tough on this year--frankly, with good reason, I think.

Once again, The House of Ideas is in the midst of a sprawling cross-over event as the summer months draw near, and while I might not be too into that story, lots of other people are, as Marvel is back on top of the sales charts.

While I've not been a fan of Avengers vs. X-Men, and that pretty much limits my Marvel-reading choices to a handful of non-crossing over titles, there is one Marvel book that is must-read fare.

And it's Daredevil, by Mark Waid and Paolo Rivera.

It’s a book I’ve talked about before, and it’s one I continually return to. Waid and Rivera manage to make these new stories feel classic but modern at the same time. You really don’t need any prior knowledge of the character to get what’s going on, but some familiarity with DD can only help to further your enjoyment of the book.

Volume two ships today, so I would suggest grabbing volume one first—though, again, these stories can stand on their own.

Since Frank Miller took the character and ran with him, Daredevil has been a dark, brooding, down on his luck hero. But Waid and Rivera bring him fully into the light—and old Matt Murdock doesn’t seem to mind the change of scenery. 

Do yourself a favor--grab this book if you get the chance. It'll remind you why you love superheroes.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Joys of Coffee

Was a time, not too long ago, that I'd given up on caffeine.

Despite a (somewhat crippling) addiction to the restorative powers of that wonderful, crystalline xanthine alkaloid (thanks, Wiki!), I decided that it was in my best interest to lay off the black stuff, and instead rely on the old-fashioned restorative powers of a beautiful morning to wake me up and get me through the day.

That worked, for a little while at least. And then I met Mr. 14 Hour Day. He was not so kind, let me tell you.

So I once again decided to make a change in my dietary habits and now I am happily caffeinated thanks to a double shot of espresso each morning. Sure, it's more than what I was consuming daily for the past couple of years, but a double shot a day is nowhere near the amount of caffeine that I would put away at the height of my Caffeine Haze.

Which is a long, roundabout way of me justifying my new coffee habit.

I know it's a slippery slope for me, but I truly plan to limit my caffeine consumption to just the double shot in the morning. I don't drink soda, or tea, and I don't eat chocolate or anything else that has caffeine in it, so it's really and truly just that morning fix.

Used to be, that morning fix was Part One in what would undoubtedly be a near-hourly exercise in self-caffeination. I'm determined to not let that happen again, as I was simply consuming too much of the good stuff.

By now, you're all wondering why in the world I've decided to use this space to talk about espresso. The answer to that is quite simple. It's Tuesday, and since last Thursday, I've woefully neglected my responsibilities on this blog.

Coffee, obviously, is on my mind. And if Nathaniel gets to write about pie...well, I get to write about coffee.

Also, on a completely unrelated note, I purchased a new computer this weekend, and I am currently sitting outside doing some work on it. And, as I'm looking up at a rather large tree directly over my head, I can't help but wonder if the Apple Care Protection Plan I bought covers me against Dive-bombing Squirrel Attacks.

Meh. I'm sure it'll be fine...

Monday, June 11, 2012

Go Have Some Pie

Borrowed from Serious Eats: Pie of the Week: Mallomar Pie. Sounds delish.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sunday Spotlight: The Two Guys from Andromeda

If you've been keeping up with my articles on GameCola or listening to the latest video game buzz, you'll know that Mark Crowe and Scott Murphy, the Two Guys from Andromeda (of Space Quest fame), are making a new adventure game. This was the most exciting video game news I'd heard since word of Mega Man 9 first hit the streets--I signed up for every fan page and mailing list the Two Guys had, and eagerly awaited every update.

If you know anything about the way I normally operate when I get wind of a new entertainment project of interest, this might sound a little uncharacteristic of me. Once I know something exists, or is going to exist, I tune out all news and spoilers unless I'm particularly confused or concerned about the finished product. Under normal circumstances, I'd be excited to know that the Two Guys were together again and working on a game.

However, I'm the biggest Space Quest fan I know. In fact, I'm one of the only Space Quest fans I know. I'm aware of a few people who've played some of the series, but any mention of the games is usually in passing, and because I brought up the topic to begin with. When you feel like the lone champion of a cause, it's not unusual to be all the more zealous about it to keep the interest alive; both for this reason and because I enjoy the games enough to be a zealous fanboy to begin with, I've managed to get this notion in my head that I'm some hotshot Biggest Fan Ever.

I'm fully aware that I'm not the Biggest Fan Ever. I never made my own fangame (though I thought about it) or dressed up in costume as one of the characters (though I thought about it), and I didn't hang around on the Space Quest message boards for over a decade in the hopes that this long-dead series would miraculously be revived (though...actually, I'm not much of a message board guy, so I never thought about it). But now that Space Quest is suddenly back with a vengeance--the SQ2 VGA remake, Incinerations, Vohaul Strikes Back, and now the supposedly unrelated Two Guys project, all in a matter of months--I am overwhelmed at the mere thought of being the Biggest Fan Ever, because there's no way I'd ever come close to meeting the requirements.

The Two Guys' official website is bursting with content that I can't keep up with. Podcast interviews. Weekly contests. Minecraft levels built to look like Space Quest locations. "Let's Play" videos of Scott and Mark playing through all six Space Quest games together. I'm unaccustomed to being on the front lines of a developing fandom, and I simply don't know how to process this much geek input. Even when I was at the height of my involvement with my YouTube channel and fully immersed in Mega Man, I wasn't just being a huge fanboy, but a mentor and an entertainer and a friend. I've never thrown myself purely into the consumer side of a fandom the way some people have, and it's almost sickening to hear the real Biggest Fans Ever talking about how profoundly comprehensive their knowledge and experience of the Space Quest fandom has been...up to and including being on a first-name basis with the developers.

What's striking about this so-called "Space Venture" project is how close to the fans the people responsible are. The cult of celebrity too often elevates people to a godlike status, and it's almost unsettling to have the Two Guys who are so revered by their fans offering so many opportunities for fan participation in the development of this project. Maybe it's the dawn of a new era where celebrities are just regular people with cool jobs, or maybe it's the start of an unhealthy obsession with deified developers who have deigned to step down from their crystal palace in the clouds to walk among the morals for a spell. Either way, I feel barely qualified to be along for the ride.

More and more of my fandoms are going mainstream, and mainstream is going more and more social. I'm losing my identity as a geek because now everybody's a geek, and because there are bigger geeks only a few clicks away. I'm not longing for the days of being ostracized for my interests, but I'm starting to wish that all the time I've spent as a consumer of fandoms still gave me the same amount of geek cred that I used to have. It seems you can't just like anything anymore; you have to live it to be a true fan.

I'm excited that Space Quest is alive and well, and that the Two Guys are back together again on a new project. I don't think I could ever be devoted enough to go beyond just plain "excited," however. Instead of throwing myself wholeheartedly into being a follower of the "Space Venture" project, I'll show my support the way I always have--by playing the game when it comes out, and by participating in whatever capacity suits me until then. For now, I'm content to check in here and there to see what's new, and that's good enough for me. I'm not the Biggest Fan Ever--and I don't have to be to enjoy the fandom for myself.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

(Trying to Justify this) Shameless Saturday

Ya know, part of me kinda feels bad about posting these YouTube embeds on Saturdays, since it is a cheat on my part and it is most certainly shameless self promotion. But at the same time, I'm really happy with how this week's "Santino's Foreign Exchange" came out, and I think you guys might dig on it.

(And for those of you out of the loop, this is the YouTube show that I help write over at WWE.)

I'm really excited to be a part of the show, and besides, there's a rather large number of you Exfanders out there, so posting here gives the show a nice little bump in the numbers. Which is good for the old self esteem.

But besides all that, the show taps into geek culture, and so I think it has a place here.

In the few weeks I've been fortunate enough to be a part of the show, we've run an Indian Jones parody, a Ghost Hunters parody, and we have some cool comic book-y stuff on the way. We've also started an epic Beard War, and if you've ever seen Nathaniel, then you know that beards definitely will always have a place on this blog.

So here you go: Hot off the racks, here's today's episode!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Exfanding Review: Hawaii Five-O

One of the many joys of having Netflix is the ability to pick up and drop any TV series that catches my interest, without any obligation to buy the DVDs or to continue watching if my interest begins to wane. Having demonstrated with The Dick Tracey Show that I can break free of my completionist tendencies and skip around if necessary, I was prepared to take on another detective show of sorts that I had no hope of ever finishing: Hawaii Five-O.

Twelve seasons? 279 episodes? 45-50 minutes per episode? It'd take me two weeks straight to watch it all, assuming I quit my job and spent every waking minute of my day marathoning Hawaii Five-Oh For The Love Of Jack Lord Make It End. I don't even like cop shows! But I have a passion for classic cinema, and that passion extends into the realm of television. It's not just entertainment; it's educational as well: film has a unique way of preserving our history and culture, and even the fictional elements have a way of hinting at the reality of the time.

If you're unfamiliar with Hawaii Five-O, the short version is that there's a crack police team in Hawaii known as "Five-O" that's always hot on the trail of every crime syndicate, con artist, and disgruntled tourist on the islands. Five-O is comprised of the levelheaded Steve McGarrett, who is rarely seen without his iconic blue suit; his ever-ready sidekick Danny "Danno" Williams; family man Chin Ho Kelly; Kono Kalakaua, the loyal tough guy; and a parade of replacements for anybody who leaves the show. I realize that Ben Kokua, Duke Lukela, and other characters who joined the regular cast later on are worth mentioning here, but the fact is, I barely saw any episodes with them in it.

The original plan was to selectively watch a few episodes from every season, choosing the ones whose descriptions sounded most up my alley and/or most important to a broader understanding of the show's overarching plotlines, assuming there were any. This worked nicely through the end of Season Four, by which point I'd realized three things:

1.) The episodes with the most appealing premises were the least relevant to overall plot and character development, and thus began to lose my full attention after about 10-15 minutes;
2.) The episodes that were most relevant to overall plot and character development had the least appealing premises, and thus began to lose my full attention after about 10-15 minutes;
3.) I was mostly watching to see who else would show up from Star Trek.

Hawaii Five-O ran from 1968-1980, which very neatly covers the hiatus between the last episode of Star Trek in 1969 and Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979. Star Trek: The Animated Series notwithstanding, this Trekless period of time is one where all the actors from The Original Series had previously disappeared from my radar. I've been spotting Star Trek alums in films such as Airplane II: The Sequel throughout the '80s and beyond, but before that? Either nobody did any acting, or else they were making appearances in shows I'd never watched.

Like Hawaii Five-O.

In one early episode, a Japanese man under the impression the year is still 1941 attempts to carry out his planned role in the bombing of Pearl Harbor. First off, it was jarring to watch a television show made in a time period where the majority of viewers would remember World War II as a part of their childhood, and not a Hollywood-coated history lesson. Second, it was jarring to see someone who was clearly not Japanese wearing heavy makeup to appear Japanese--the thought crossed my mind that any Japanese actor of the appropriate age for that role might potentially have found the subject matter to be too close to home.

Enough food for thought with those two points alone, but then I began to recognize the actor who McGarrett and the rest of his team were chasing. At first, I thought it was Charlton Heston, who I'd recently seen pass for a Mexican in Orson Welles' Touch of Evil. When the credits rolled, I realized my mistake--it wasn't Charlton Heston, but Mark Lenard.

Mark Lenard, who played Sarek, Spock's father, on Star Trek. Suddenly I had a renewed interest in Hawaii Five-O.

As I continued watching, I saw Diana "Dr. Pulaski" Muldaur as a suspicious wife, Ricardo "Khaaaaaaaaan!" Montalbán as an expert racecar driver, Roger C. "Harcourt Fenton Mudd" Carmel as a Russian informant, and William "Denny Crane on Boston Legal" Shatner as a Texan detective, complete with an accent of such questionable authenticity that--I swear I'm not making this up--one of the characters in the episode was on the fence about whether he was a Westerner or only "affecting a Western accent."

It was a kick to see so many actors from Star Trek in such wildly different roles and situations than I was accustomed to. I'd never seen Mark Lenard or Roger C. Carmel in anything else, and it was fascinating to watch them take ownership of their characters--and amusing to realize how much of a character actor Carmel must have been when his Russian accent occasionally gave way slightly to a very fine English one.

Diana Muldaur was impressively...normal. As in, a persuasively regular person, and not a Star Trek character out of uniform. For someone whom I strongly associate with a particular character to show no trace of that character in a different role is no easy task. Especially for William Shatner, whose slyness and force fit the role perfectly, but whose accent--as consistent and inoffensive as it was--never convinced me of his origins. Funny how easily accents can make or break a character.

I find myself with a growing respect for how--in the movies I've seen, at least--Ricardo Montalbán's distinctive accent never seems to define his character. He's the kind of actor I admire most: one who can fully become a character even without changing his hair or disguising his voice. He could've played JFK, and I wouldn't have questioned why John F. Kennedy sounded Mexican.

In general, I have nothing but praise for the acting and direction. I even caught a familiar name directing one of the episodes--Nicholas Colasanto, who played Coach on Cheers, which my wife and I are currently watching. The stars I recognized were one of the most compelling reasons for me to stick with the show for a while, but the unique setting was a selling point, too--I appreciated how Hawaii wasn't just part of the background, but an integral factor in the kinds of crimes Five-O would deal with. Culture, history, and geography played a big part, and I feel like that's not always true of detective shows.

I was simultaneously impressed and disappointed by the show's consistency--twelve seasons, and aside from the aforementioned cast changes, there were very few ways to tell the first episode from the last one. A few minor modifications to the intro theme, really. The actor playing Chin Ho had visibly aged by the end of his ten-year tenure, but the film quality and costumes and actors around him seemed to have been oddly unaffected by the passage of time. I think of shows like Star Trek: The Next Generation whose first seasons seem like a completely different show coming off of later seasons, but Hawaii Five-O established itself almost immediately and never seemed to stray from its path. The only significant addition I can think of was a mildly distracting split-screen effect toward the end of the series that allowed the viewer to watch the bad guys running away and the good guys running after them in two different locations at the same time. Oh, and the uncontrollably shaky camera seemed to calm down a bit after a while, so there's that.

There was a lot to like about Hawaii Five-O. I'm just not big into detective shows. For fans of the genre, and even for aspiring film buffs such as myself, it's worth a look...even if you've only got a 10-15-minute attention span.

If nothing else, the title theme is really catchy:

And, just for the heck of it, let's throw in a little Star Wars, too:

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Looking for Jack

I believe I've learned a valuable lesson: When planning to attend a concert where there may be a possibility of purchasing the performing artist's audio CDs, do yourself a favor and research pricing and availability of the ones you don't have in advance.

As you may recall, I saw Colin Hay in concert recently. At the merchandise table, I had my pick of just about any CD he'd ever produced. One of which, as I recall, was Looking For Jack, his first post-Men at Work endeavor. $15 for the CD, like all the others. I picked up Mercury Rising and Going Somewhere instead, figuring I'd get around to Looking for Jack eventually.

An gift card arrived for me in the mail a few days ago, and I had my mind set on expanding my music library with more Colin Hay, plus more James Taylor and Talking Heads as well. To stretch my $25 certificate as far as it would go, I went searching for the cheapest options that weren't yet in my library: a little under $10 for Sweet Baby James; a little over $10 for Remain in Light; $116.97 for Looking for Jack.


One hundred sixteen dollars. For a CD.

And ninety-seven cents.

Apparently, the album was released on CD in 1987 and never saw a re-release in any format that I can find. I didn't even realize we had CDs in 1987--I distinctly remember cassette tapes and small mountains of installation disks for the likes of Space Quest V well into the '90s.

Do you know how long it's been since the '90s? I can't even do the math anymore.

Like I can't do the math to come up with $116.97 for a CD that should at least be available for digital download by now. Meanwhile, I'm looking at 33 different versions of Paul Anka's "(You're) Having My Baby" on Amazon for a buck twenty-nine or less. I think I feel ill.

The moral of this story remains the same, whether or not there actually was a copy of Looking for Jack on that merchandise table: Hire Paul Anka to write your songs, and they'll never go out of print.

Wait, that's not it at all...I mean, $17.86 for Transcendental Highway is much more reasonable.

But I could've gotten it for $15.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Waiting for Wednesday, Volume 4, Issue 23

This isn't a spoiler, I promise.

It's kind of a big media week in comics, as one of the classic DC superheroes will come out of the closet and a time-honored classic of the medium will get a series of new prequels.

Alan Scott, the Golden Age Green Lantern, is revealed to be gay in today's issue of Earth 2, one of The New 52 titles. As expected, speculators have picked clean the shelves and it'll be a bit of an uphill battle to actually find this issue.

Which, of course, is ridiculous. I've written about speculators before, and my feelings on those lowest of lifeforms has not since changed. I know in one local shop, "customers" came in and cleared out all 25 issues the store ordered first thing in the morning.

One guy even bought 10 copies. eBay, much?


And, oh, yeah. That whole Before Watchmen thing starts today, too. But I'm sure that won't create any Internet fervor. Nah. Couldn't possibly.

Now, while sarcasm is fun, it's also usually rooted in underlying truth. Everyone is going to hate on the new series of titles ... mostly just because.

Oh, comic book culture, how I love thee.

And with that, we wrap up yet another insanely late post. But before we do, what are you Waiting for?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Worse Blogger

We are apparently not off to a spectacular start with posting this month. At least when Alex resorts to a quick filler post, there's some substance that still makes it worth a look. I just come up with a sorry three-sentence fluff post that accomplishes nothing other than meeting our posting quota for the day.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Bad Blogger

One of the reasons I've been so...subdued...on the blog of late is because I simply haven't been able to sit down and do much of anything that even resembles the things we usually write about here at Exfanding.

For the most part, my television viewing is limited to wrestling and the occasional political talk show, as we are in an election year and I like to at least try to keep up with what's going on. I watch Game of Thrones on HBO every Sunday (the season finale was last night, actually), but I know lots of folks like watching that show on DVD, so I avoid writing about it here, even though I have really enjoyed both seasons.

My comics reading has dwindled to an all-time low; any free time I have has been devoted to researching printers and trying not to break the bank when it comes time to print my children's book or to reading (very slowly, might I add) the first and second installments of the Game of Thrones novels.

I haven't done much in the way of buying original comic book art, mostly because my time to surf the Internet has dwindled. I've pretty much been living my geek life vicariously through Nathaniel and his excellent posts about crafting adventures for D&D sessions.

I have gotten back into brewing some awesome espresso...this time at the office, as my Greatest Christmas Present Ever is now on my desk at work.

And, yes, I am very much back into drinking coffee, a vice that's been made necessary due to my...unusual...hours.

All this to say...I've been a bad blogger. And I'm sorry. But, hey, at least I only missed our self-imposed posting deadline by 54 minutes today!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Sunday Spotlight: Being Angry at Everything

I probably won't be angry by the time you read this. When we're not posting two or three hours past our self-imposed deadline, we actually do aim to write these things in advance. That's how it is for me now: I'm writing this post in advance, and I'm angry.

There's nothing in particular that triggered it. I got up, went to work, came home, watched a movie with my wife, and started prepping for the weekend. Fine and dandy. But I've been angry all day. Lack of sleep? Anger-inducing dream I don't remember? Stressed about another weekend booked solid from Friday until late Sunday, no matter how fun the activities consuming it might be? I can't say. I'm just angry at everything.

To the casual observer, you might not be able to tell. I've still smiled and laughed and generally been myself. Yet my default position all day has been simmering anger--if that's even a position--and the little things have been much quicker to get under my skin, and good things need to be way better than average to feel all that good to me.

Bruce Banner says in The Avengers that his secret to keeping The Hulk under wraps is that he's always angry. I understand exactly how that feels today. And I really don't know why.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Saturday Shamelessness

Hey there, Exfanders. Today I'd like to share with you the latest episode of the YouTube show that I'm helping to write. This one has a couple of bits that I've been dying to see, and I was really pleased with how they came out.

You don't know anything (at all) about wrestling, but if you're a fan of Indiana Jones (and/or beards), it might be worth a look. : )

Check it out, and hopefully you get a chuckle from this one!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Month in Review: May 2012

Star Wars, the conclusion to the eight-part D&D story, movies, guest posts, PlayStation games, self-publishing, a holiday, a Colin Hay, and a bunch of excuses about why we couldn't write real posts. There, you've just read everything we posted in May.

Actually, that's a lie. Unless you did read everything, of course. If not--or if you want to read things again--here's everything we posted in May (save for the Month in Review, which we never bother to include for some reason). And, because most of the titles speak for themselves (or, more accurately, because I'm in a lousy mood and have other things I need to do), I won't bother with descriptions this time around:

- Waiting for Wednesday, Volume 4, Issue 18

- Recreational Thursday

- Gearing Up for the Final Confrontation

- Happy Free Comic Book Day 2012!

- Sunday Spotlight: PlayStation Portable

- *waves hand* This is not the post you were looking for...

- Yes. It's a Giant Sea Slug. Let's Move On.

- Waiting for Wednesday, Volume 4, Issue 19

- The Avengers Have Arrived!

- Friday Catch Up

- Review: Final Fantasy V Advance

- Sunday Spotlight: Colin Hay

- Amazing Adventures in Self Publishing! Part Five

- Lost in the Archives

- Waiting for Wednesday, Volume 4, Issue 20

- Exfanded Universe

- Amazing Adventures in Self Publishing! Part Six

- In Which Greedo May Possibly Be Allowed to Shoot First

- Sunday Spotlight: Part 7 of That D&D Story I'm Taking Forever to Tell

- The Amazing, Despicable Iron Star Age of Resident Steel Avengers Rises...2

- Recovering From the Zombie Plague

- Waiting for Wednesday, Volume 4, Issue 21

- An Introduction to Failure

- Friday Insanity

- Let Others Choose the Way

- Sunday Spotlight: R&R

- Memorial Day 2012

- State of the Onion Address

- Waiting for Wednesday ... Um ... Kind Of

- GameCola Recap: May 2012