Thursday, October 18, 2012

Taking a Look Around

It's gotten quiet around here again. The number of monthly posts has been dwindling, and it's clear that I've just been phoning it in for most of the last two months. From the look of it, Exfanding is dead; I've merely been playing Weekend at Bernie's with the blog.

Hm. Apparently, I've already referenced Weekend at Bernie's three times before on this blog, but in completely different contexts. Guess it belongs up there with toasters.

I look at posts like this one and this one, and despite their optimism, I keep hearing myself sound like the guy on the Titanic who's telling everyone it's just a scratch and the ship probably won't sink. I think back to our one-year anniversary celebration, and this particular question:

How long do you plan to continue with this blog?

Alex: That’s kinda like asking Frodo and Sam when they’ll stop their silly journey and go back to the Shire with all the dancing. Really. It’s just like that.

I wanna keep it going for as long as it’s fun for us to write (and read), and for as long as we have something to say.

Nathaniel: Ah, but in the case of Frodo and Sam, there’s a clear endpoint; I’m not sure that’s the case with this blog. Besides, if the alternative is dancing, then I have no intentions of ever stopping!

Honestly, I can't remember the last post that was fun to write. Cathartic, maybe; comfortable, sure. And fun to read? I do go back and re-read some of my posts from time to time, and my wife worries about me when I laugh out loud at things I wrote a few years ago. But most of the time when I look at my newest material, I think, "Huh. That post is still at the top of the page." Guest posts have been refreshing, but looking at my own work just reminds me that it's time to write something else. And when I do sit down to write, either the inkwell is dry, or I just don't have the energy to prognosticate the future of the Mega Man series based on Mega Man Xover or introduce this new anime series that I kinda liked. By all accounts, it's time to close up shop, admit we had a good run, and not Simpsons our way through another 15 seasons for no other reason than that we don't have to stop.

Good plan. But you're forgetting two things, Me: This is just as much Alex's blog as it is yours—he might not have the time to be writing right now, but at last check, he was still reading.

And you hate dancing.

There are days like today when I want to write, not just for the sake of writing but for this blog. There's a real Presidential election right around the corner, which means it's time to roll out the candidates for Fake President once again. I've got a beginner's episode guide to Star Trek: The Next Generation that I've been toiling over for months, off and on. There's a comprehensive guide in the works to becoming a better Mega Man player, and the only reason it hasn't been posted yet is because I need to take some screenshots. And I'll be darned if we get to 2013 without posting our Year in Review of 2011 first. I've been keeping our blogging boat afloat by patching it up every few days while it's adrift at sea, rather than bringing it ashore to plot a real course and hammer out good new material for it. And it's time to change that.

Exfanding Your Horizons is going on hiatus. Might be for a month; might just be until tomorrow. But when we come back, we'll have something worth reading. It might be silly, it might be philosophical, it might just be a YouTube video I forgot I wanted to share with you. But it will not be fluff. It'll be something we wanted to write, enjoyed writing, and will enjoy re-reading. Until such time as we're both able to keep up with this blog on a daily basis again, we'll be taking as long as we need to write another post. And once we've written another post, we'll be taking our time on the next one.

It's right there in the blog's charter: "We're both geeks. But we're both different kinds of geeks. We've joined forces to introduce, explain, discuss, and demystify various hobbies and fandoms to promote an understanding between geeks and to spark an interest in the things that interest us." Nowhere does it say we have to do this on a regular basis. Nowhere does it say the blog is over if we go too long without visible new content.

Maybe I'm not the guy on the Titanic who's saying the boat probably won't sink. Maybe I've mistaken which boat I'm on in the first place.

See you soon, Exfanders. And whether "soon" means tomorrow, or sometime next month, this is a promise I intend to keep.

Our blog rules.

Monday, October 15, 2012

More Star Wars Trivia for Kids

On Friday I wrote about being asked to prepare some Star Wars trivia questions for a group of youngsters as part of a larger Star Wars-themed event. I'm pleased to report that everyone seemed to have fun—we had a good range of participants, from the anticipated Star Wars mega-experts to the kids who'd barely even heard of Star Wars at all.

I was impressed by many of the answers...and amused by just as many. A few gems:
Me: "How did the duel between Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Darth Maul end?"
Child: "Darth Maul got cut in half!"
Me: "Very good! What did he get cut in half with?" (To this, I was simply expecting, "a lightsaber.")
Child: "He got cut in half by Qui-Gon's lightsaber, wielded by Obi-Wan, who knocked him into the big pit." (Impressive. But you are not a Jedi yet. How about this one...?)
Me: "What do Nute Gunray, Lott Dod, and Rune Haako have in common?"
Child: "They're all Star Wars characters!" (Very good. An excellent start. I was going for, "They're all the same race—Neimoidans, to be specific," or, "They're all members of the Trade Federation." I'm proud to report that someone did answer with the former, although I would have also settled for, "They all have funny hats.")
Me: "What is a wupiupi?" (The correct answer is money—specifically, a unit of currency mentioned in Episode I when Jar-Jar is eating things in the marketplace.)
Parent: "It's a cushion! (Yes. A wupiupi cushion.)
Me: "Who was TK-421, and why wasn't he at his post?" (As I'm sure we all remember, TK-421 was one of the poor Stormtroopers who got knocked out by Luke and Han on the Death Star when they were in need of disguises.)
First Child: "He was dead!"
Me: "Great! Tell me more. Who was TK-421, and why wasn't he at his post?"
Second Child: "He was...a little robot."
Me: "Actually, he wasn't a robot, but you can keep going if you want to."
Second Child: " he got stuck in traffic!"


Friday, October 12, 2012

Star Wars Trivia for Kids

I have been tasked with creating a series of Star Wars trivia questions to fill about 15-20 minutes with some youngsters. Now, I have enough experience to know what kinds of general trivia questions do and don't work well with the younglings, but Star Wars trivia? That's a bantha of a different color.

Why, when I was still barely taller than an Ewok, I could've named a half-dozen classes of Star Trek starships, told you exactly how many bars of health Mega Man started out with, and quoted half of Michael Winslow's lines (and sound effects) in Police Academy. Never underestimate the geek capacity of a child.

At the same time, never overestimate the geek capacity of a child.

It's difficult to tell what, exactly, this generation of Star Wars fans knows. From the diehard who built her own lightsaber, right down to the newcomer who thinks a Star Destroyer is a scathing news report on TMZ, the difference between what passes for general and esoteric Star Wars knowledge has shifted from when I was a kid, and it's all because of the prequels and The Clone Wars spinoff movie and TV show.

I say this without conducting any kind of formal research, mind you. However, the kids for whom I'm writing these trivia questions grew up when Darth Maul action figures were all over the shelves, Samuel L. Jackson was known primarily as the guy who played Mace Windu, and "wesa no liken" passed for acceptable English. Now they're watching a computer-generated Anakin Skywalker be the hero every week, and reading about Kit Fisto and Plo Koon in their comic books. Of course their knowledge of Star Wars is going to be different from mine at that age.

So, I'm playing it safe: I've got the dork-heavy questions like "What do Nute Gunray, Lott Dod, and Rune Haako have in common?" as well as the questions that every fan should know, like "True/False: Han shot first." (Obviously, it depends on which version you're watching. Obviously.)

May the Force be with me.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Return to October Country

Here we are again. It's October. Halloween season. Election season.

Tough to say which is scarier, really.

For me, October is where I rely on other people to tell me the leaves are beautifully changing colors, because I'm color-blind. October is where I break out the comfy jacket to go along with the long sleeves I've been wearing for as much of the summer as I could tolerate. October is where I start thinking about plans for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and in doing so, realize I've once again forgotten my mother's birthday.

For this blog, October is always a time of anticipation and storytelling. There are conventions. There was even a Renaissance Faire, that one time. But more than anything else, October is home. Not for me, but for my absent blogging buddy, Alex. A few years back, he wrote about this time of year—"The October Country," as Ray Bradbury called it—and ever since, I haven't been able to think about it any other way.

Even though this country is the next one over from the one I call home.

Personally, I'm holding out for the turkey and mistletoe. I've always preferred hockey over football, sleigh rides over hayrides, and Classic Holiday Movie over The One Where Stupid Kids Get Killed Stupidly Because They're Stupid IV: This Time, With More Knives. Yet the earnest enthusiasm that Alex, my wife, and others have for this season starts to rub off after a while, and I find myself starting to appreciate aspects of this month that I previously thought little about or avoided altogether. I think, especially right now, October is good for my health.

I could use a change of season. Physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, I could use a change of season. Fresh faces, fresh side projects, fresh air—fresh baked goods would do nicely, too, but I won't beg. This creature of habit is longing for a break from his routine, which means I need a change of season.

Even if it's nothing more than an excuse to finally watch Bubba Ho-tep this year, I'm looking forward to this trip through October Country.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

GameCola Recap: September 2012

Not much to say about my September contributions to slogan changed from "Videogame Humor" to "Gaming Outside the Mainstream"--except that they're more of the same, which is not necessarily a bad thing. A sequel, a continuation, and another installment, plus a lot of time spent behind the scenes on the multi-part Crystalis D&Dcast that should provide a good number of links for October's recap.
So, while you're waiting for that, go ahead and soak up some September silliness:


- [NSFW] GameCola's Most Essential/Influential Games of All Time (L-R)

- Spam Attack: Super Fighting Spambot


- GC Podcast #37 on YouTube: This Thing Came Apart

Monday, October 1, 2012

A Proper Crystalis Celebration

As is my yearly custom, I am pleased to report that I have celebrated the (15th!) anniversary of The END DAY by playing through Crystalis, the NES RPG cult classic that made the bold proclamation that this day in 1997 would mark the end of civilization as we knew it. Well, I say that the post-apocalypse has never looked better.
For starters, for the first time in a few years, I was able to play through Crystalis from start to finish in a single sitting. Marathoning the game isn't a requirement, but I'm at the point now where I can breeze through it in 3-4 hours; that's about how long I spend playing video games anyhow (when I get the chance), so why not finish the whole thing in one go? Besides, part of the enjoyment I derive from playing this every year is experiencing the continuous progression of the story and the gameplay from one area to the next; I don't get the full effect by taking a few days to complete the game.
More exciting than that, however, was the release of Part 1 of GameCola's Crystalis-themed D&D podcast, hosted by yours truly. It's an alternate retelling of the story in which the game's four wise men--Zebu, Tornel, Asina, and Kensu--are the heroes. If you're interested in Dungeons & Dragons, or are a Crystalis fan, or just like sitting in on other people's (virtual) tabletop gaming sessions, this one comes highly recommended.
However, the best part of this END DAY was unquestionably the rare opportunity to fire up my NES, settle myself into the couch, and watch the graphics of Crystalis' otherwise normal introductory cutscene go completely bananas:
Apparently, the mistakes of the past could have been avoided with a little more Tornel Teaches Typing.
In short, this was a good day for Crystalis.