Saturday, March 31, 2012

Saturday Satire

Just a quick hello from behind my desk this afternoon.

I’m hunkered down for the weekend, working my way through my company’s busiest week (and weekend) of the year. At this point, there’s still an awful lot left to do, but the end is now in sight and I plan to get back to normal posting by Tuesday, or so.

Well, you know, about as normal as I’m capable of.

In the meantime, however, let’s talk comics. This past week, Avengers vs. X-Men, issue zero, hit shelves, and issue one ships this coming Wednesday.

AvX, as it's becoming known to us nerds, is supposed to be the Next Big Thing.

And, since I'm the one who officially decides such things (clearly), I'll say this: I read issue zero (at some point between buying it on Wednesday and right this moment), I liked it, and I think there's something intriguing about the book.

However, the last thing comics needs right now is an all-encompassing cross-over event. That said, comics really, really needs a meaningful event, and we need one now.

I will not pick up the tie-ins to AvX; I plan to read the main book and that's it. My hope is that Marvel puts the actual story of the event in its main event book. If that sentence sounds funny to you, then you obviously didn't follow The House of Ideas' last big event--Fear Itself.

For that story, most of the actual event occurred in places other than the main book.

I wasn't a big fan of that decision, and I pretty much stopped reading a whole mess of Marvel books out of complete apathy.

I'm hoping that AvX is the thing that pulls me back in.

As I said, issue zero was good, so I do have high hopes for the book. Will it be The Thing That Brings Me Back to Marvel? We'll have to wait and see. One thing's for certain, though--either way, I'll be writing about it here in the coming weeks and months.

So stay tuned...and cross your fingers.

Friday, March 30, 2012

GameCola Recap: March 2012

Apparently I was more active than I thought at videogame humor website in the month of March. I offer you a nice blend this time around: a belated fluff post, a new (and well-received) column, a heads-up about a fun video series in which I participated, and a meaningful and entertaining all-staff post. Have at!

- Spam Attack: Remembering Couch Outlet Store Online

- Q&AmeCola: Your First Game


- Back to the Future: The Game – Episode 4: The Video – The Post: Marty is a Jerk

- GC Podcast #32 on YouTube: Crossover Games

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Go Outside, Or Something

Haha, so I have to write a post for today. I had it in my mind that a GameCola recap was in order, followed by our Month in Review the next day to cap off the month, but apparently there's an extra day left before I can do all that.

So...posting, huh.

I've been totally disconnected from any substantial creative output this week. I haven't posted since Sunday, I haven't touched anything GameCola-related, and my focus on YouTube has been fairly minimal. I've been recharging from a fun and busy weekend of Dungeons & Dragons (which I hope to write about next week) and a L'Arc-en-Ciel concert (which I hope to con someone into guest posting about), and especially after the lousy Wednesday I had, I've been in a mindset to veg out.

What have I been doing with my spare time instead of writing and recording? Same thing I do every week, just more of it--movies, TV, and video games. I may also have glanced at the cover of a book once or twice. It's been relaxing to thin out my Netflix Instant Queue and to cruise the crime-ridden streets of Lytton in Police Quest III...but it hasn't been as satisfying as usual. I keep feeling this drive to get out of the house and do something if I'm not pursuing my creative endeavors indoors, but I have yet to determine what, specifically, that something might be.

Rejoining a choir? Volunteer work? Maybe just going out for a walk? I'm open to suggestions.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Waiting for Wednesday, Volume 4, Issue 13

Welcome to a lucky number edition of Waiting for Wednesday!

Two books on the old list today that are worth a mention here. One's a new, weird number one from Vertigo, and the other is what looks to be the kickoff of the biggest comics event of the year.

First up, we have New Deadwardians, issue one, from Vertigo. When I saw this in Previews, I was pretty much sold by the name alone.
Written by Dan Abnett and with art by I. N. J. Culbard, this book promises to deliver something new and different to a played out genre.

Here's the solicitation information from the publisher:

Another vampire/zombie comic? Really, Vertigo? Trust us. This is different.

In post-Victorian England, nearly everyone of the upper classes has voluntarily become a vampire to escape the lower classes who are all zombies. Into this simmering cauldron is thrust Chief Inspector George Suttle, a lonely detective who's got the slowest beat in London: investigating murders in a world where everyone is already dead!

But when the body of a young aristocrat washes up on the banks of the Thames, Suttle's quest for the truth will take him from the darkest sewers to the gleaming halls of power, and reveal the rotten heart at the center of this strange world.THE NEW DEADWARDIANS is brought to vivid life by fan-favorite writer Dan Abnett (RESURRECTION MAN, LEGION LOST) with art by newcomer I. N. J. Culbard (At The Mountains of Madness).

Well, I’m in.

Next up, we have what’s shaping up to be a comic book mega-event, Avengers Vs. X-Men. Today sees the release of the zero issue for this series, a book that should lay the groundwork for the big event.
I haven't been all that gung-ho when it comes to The House of Ideas lately, but I am going to pick this book up today. And, honestly, my hope is that I love the series and jump back (head first!) into the Marvel Universe.

Here’s all the info from Marvel on today's issue zero:

The Story: The battle of the ages is about to begin! Before the events of AVENGERS VS. X-MEN unfold, join Scarlet Witch & Hope as their allegiances are questioned. With all eyes on Wanda and the mutant messiah, the Marvel universe has become a powder keg on the verge of exploding!

Gah! So much going on at work today! Before I bounce, though, what are you Waiting for?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Accidental Death of a Nerd

Today we have the pleasure of introducing our first-time guest poster Marcus, an ex-hobbit who I'm fairly certain was last last seen chucking potatoes at passersby from atop a tall building. At least, that's what I recall from one of our previous tabletop roleplaying sessions together.

"Dungeons & Dragons," they called it. I had never heard of it, but after recently moving across the country and seeing my first opportunity to have friends outside of school, I happily agreed to come over that night and try their game. That was fourteen years ago, and now here we are: the same people, the same table, the same DM, and the same chainmail and lightning bolts; but somehow it doesn't feel the same. Then the realization hits me, and I lean over to the guy who in those fourteen years has come to be my closest friend, whispering, "dude...I don't think I'm a nerd anymore."

I'm not sure when, or how, it ended. I definitely can mark the first time I sat down at that table as the moment when it began; my passage through the wardrobe and into the realm of nerddom, a place in my life now so foreign to me I can hardly believe was ever real.

I had been playing video games since my friend got an NES when we were six, but there was nothing to indicate that I would later put two years of my life into WoW raiding. I was an avid reader and enjoyed The Lord of the Rings, but I had countless other books I considered to be of unquestionably higher caliber. My interest in school and learning was non-existent, and I was happier playing sports. Unusual interest in dark humor aside, I was about as average a kid as you can imagine.

But something did happen, beginning with that first D&D campaign, those first friends I made after the move: I came to define myself by which genres of games I preferred, I saw red when Trekkies called Star Wars derivative, and I began to shun any but the most necessary physical activity and threw myself into school; my curiosity about understanding the natural world was only matched by my fascination with imaginary ones. Perhaps most tellingly, I discovered the label 'nerd'--and it fit me perfectly.

Those of you whom I met in college likely knew me through shared interests in anime, pen-and-paper RPGs, and late night video-gaming. Each of these, in turn, has fallen by the wayside as I come closer to a time when I can no longer call myself "in my mid-twenties." I had been vaguely aware of the changes, although my continuing Steam account suggests an attempt to cling to the identity I once had. Once, I played video games to relax, to enjoy my free time; now I play them when I have nothing else to do, which is sadly too rare. My love of games--while still present--is no longer a significant part of my life. That's what I realized, sitting at that table; "nerd" was a title I simply could no longer ascribe to myself.

Like its rival sibling "geek," "nerd" has become decidedly less of a pejorative in recent years. Reading, video games, favoring brains over brawn or looks, traits once used to distinguish myself from the popular kids, are now more commonly accepted and even admired. This phenomenon, this mainstream geekiness, I unquestionably recognize as a positive development. Children should never be shamed for their interests, and the notion that school was a place where you could be mocked for intelligence should have been sending off alarms through our society decades ago.

But at the same time, I cannot accept this shift in attitudes coinciding with my own loss of identity as a nerd as coincidence. It is something that I credit--albiet, through grit teeth and clenched jaw - in large part to J.K. Rowling. Those same children who sat at the best lunch tables and shunned us for our interest in playing at elves and wizards found joy in putting on robes, waving sticks, and shouting mangled Latin at one another--and while I wish them all the best in it, as this culture has merged into the mainstream, I've felt myself moving away from it. That night at the table, when I found myself thoroughly nonplussed by the choice between fighter, mage, or thief, I came to accept that this was no longer me.

Given that my identity as a nerd was so tied to my circle of friends, I do suspect that some part of my ultimate rejection of the label can be traced to a transition of setting. Once I left school I was forced, for a time, to work whatever jobs I could to pay the bills, and in these jobs I found myself (as always) surrounded by people with interests different than my own. But that this was no longer school was clear, and the determinants of popularity lay in doing your job well and getting along with people whose best interest is to get along with you. We even all wore the same clothes; it was an absolute reversal of what I understood about being a part of society in school. In this new social scene popularity still did matter, but the paths to it were vastly different than the old ways of high school. Slowly, I began to socialize with and befriend people I would have shunned--or, more honestly speaking, would have shunned me--ten years ago, and in my proximity to a broader variety of less-than-nerdy interests, some of them began to rub off on me.

Labels aside, I found an interest or fond childhood memory that might be described as nerdy in a person that otherwise would seem out of place at a LAN party, but in this I began to be aware of my own changes. In the end, I think this is what became of me. The clear line in the sand between who was and who was not a nerd has been scuffed out in recent years, and we are instead left with a hazier sliding scale on which the vast majority of our peers register at least a few nerdy tendencies.

As for myself, there are still many nerdy things I hold dear but there is a common trend throughout them: they are all old (or older, anyway). The last game I seriously played was WoW; and the last console I owned an N64, but I will quite confidently assert that Chrono Trigger is quantifiably superior to any game released in the past fifteen years. I tried to play Skyrim recently; it fell flat. But man, did I have some good times in Morrowind. Final Fantasy III* was brilliant--rolling around the D-pad into a Bum Rush is 95% of what I remember of fifth grade--but I honestly think VII is a dull plod through a morass of repetitive battles and boring characters.

*Serious Final Fantasy fans know it as VI. People who waited til their parents were in bed to sneak out and play all night when it first came out know it as III.

The difference? Chrono Trigger, Morrowind, and FFIII all came out when I was playing video games. I had an itch in my brain for new worlds, and they were the ones to scratch it. Objectively speaking, I know that there is no way to weigh their merits against Modern Call of Special Ops 6, and I know that there are millions of youths out there whose imaginations will be sparked by the pace, the intensity, and the multiplayer connectivity of the latter. But me? I just don't get it. My point, in so many words, is that there are games---and other things--that are special to me, not because they are games but because they are *my* games. There was a time when video games played a huge role in my life, and while they no longer do, the effects of that time and of those particular games continue.

None of this is to disparage or denigrate anyone who does still call themselves a nerd (hipster bandwagoners aside). To those of you who have kept the faith over the years, you have my admiration, and envy. Even now, as I find new joys and new pursuits, none of them ever excite me the way a new Zelda game did. Never has my imagination been so stirred as by the promise of new, exciting worlds behind each turn of the page and every roll of the dice. Nor have I yet clung to any label or identity so fiercely as I once did to "nerd." Whether it was something in me that developed new interests over the years, or the redefining of the term, I must come to terms that the nerd in me is gone; I'm now simply another average guy with average interests.

But I still hate Star Trek.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Monday 'Mania

Today kicks off what, I’m told, will be a very long eight day stretch of work for me. Anyone who’s into wrestling will likely know why that is, but for the uninitiated—this coming Sunday (April 1) is WrestleMania XXVIII.

WrestleMania is, of course, THE event of the year in professional wrestling, and now that I report on such things, I’m bracing for a very busy week.

So if you don’t hear much from me, please don’t take it personally.

After this week, I plan to return to a more “normal” posting schedule and I fully intend to finally finish my part of that pesky “Best of 2011” feature that should have been posted months ago. You know, back when 2011 was still kind of relevant.

Until then, though, I will mostly be in my hole, hunkering down for a long week of reporting.

Long, but, I think, fun, too. Despite the amount of work that has been forewarned, I’m looking forward to being in the middle of it.

Digital media is quite a bit different than the traditional print publishing that I was so accustomed to before taking this new gig. Digital is immediate, and once you’ve written something and posted it, it’s done.

On to the next.

Print publishing—with its seemingly endless string of page proofs and edits and copyedits—is very much a place for people with long memories. Digital publishing, on the other hand, is for people with short memories.

Meaning: research, write, copyedit, post, move on.

That was one of the toughest things for me to adjust to when I started, but I’ve really become a fan of it. Do the work, move on. It’s a good lesson for creative endeavors of any kind, even long form stuff.

Do the work, let the public see it, move on to the next thing.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sunday Spotlight: Clannad and Clannad After Story

If you've been following this blog for any length of time, you'll know that I don't write about anime hardly at all. I consider myself a fan, and I've been watching more anime recently thanks to the wonders of Netflix, but as I stated before, "everything I'd like to write about I watched too many years ago to remember fully, and most of the things I've watched recently either aren't things I care to write about, or else I'm not a big enough fan to do a post that'll do the anime justice." Well, I believe I've found one more exception in the form of Clannad and Clannad After Story.

Spoilers, ahoy.

One look at Clannad's Wikipedia page tells me I'd be in way over my head if I attempted to make any explanation of the greater Clannad fandom, so I'll stick with what I know: Clannad is not the kind of show I ever imagined myself liking, let alone getting angry at for not liking. I watch shows with guns and spaceships and rabbits that transform into spaceships; yet, for a time, I was watching the slice-of-life high school drama of Clannad and asking my wife, "WHY DO I LIKE THIS SO MUCH??"

For a time, mind you.

We determined that it was refreshing to watch something...normal. No undead hordes to fight; no bathtubs connected to parallel worlds; no weird science binding your little brother's soul to a suit of armor. Just a socially maladjusted guy in his last year of high school, his troublemaking loudmouth friend, and a half-dozen female classmates with their own unique reasons for getting together with the main character.

I mean, personalities.

Clannad is all about the relationships between friends, family, and romantic interests, and it's the characters that really drive the show. I didn't care much about the drama club they were trying to form, or the cherry trees they were trying to save, or the rival gangs they somehow got involved with; I wanted to see the reasons behind protagonist Okazaki's strained relationship with his father, or the ridiculous showdowns between Sunohara the rabblerouser and Tomoyo the tough girl, or the antics between the playful parents of Okazaki's eventual love interest, the innocent Nagisa.

When Clannad sticks to everyday stories about everyday people, it's surprisingly enjoyable to me. Between the writing and the voice acting, the characters are complex and amusing enough to remain interesting, even when not a single thing blows up. It's only when the frustratingly mysterious and potentially supernatural events start happening that I put on my purple Hulk shorts and get angry.

As I said, Clannad was refreshing because it was normal. No "reality, with a twist," just good ol' fashioned "boy likes five girls and won't ask any of them out for fear of hurting the others' feelings." Throughout the first half of the show, we were teased by occasional sci-fi/fantasy elements that always ended up being perfectly normal once we understood what was going on--every time we were afraid Nagisa was from another planet, we'd soon discover she was just reciting lines from a play; that kind of thing. It was enjoyable to watch the show test the boundaries of reality without ever ceasing to be realistic.

When we learned that starfish-obsessed little Fuko might be the ghost of a girl in a coma across town, we wrote it off as superstition. When Fuko started disappearing from everyone's memory, we counted on it being some unthinkably coordinated class prank. Once it became clear that her disappearance wasn't a prank, the only rationalization we could come up with was that Okezaki was perhaps the one in a coma and had imagined all this. It wasn't long before reality had been breached by fantasy--unnecessary, poorly explained fantasy--and we were hearing about mystical orbs of light and tiny, secret universes connected to our own.

Granted, we might have seen this coming. Throughout both Clannad and Clannad After Story are brief segments featuring a young girl who looks strikingly like Nagisa, and a little robot that looks strikingly like an Ewok. They have nothing to do with Tomoyo becoming student council president or Okazaki getting a job with the power company; their primary function, as best as I could tell, was to annoy viewers until whatever metaphor they conveyed was brought to light. Like anything else in the series that smacked of the supernatural, I was expecting these segments to be easily explained as something symbolic, imaginary, or misconstrued later on. As it turned out, we had been watching a legitimately real alternate dream reality starring Nagisa's daughter and Okazaki the robot. Or something like that.

I call this "Sunshine Syndrome": watching something go in a direction you don't like, and hoping against hope that things will turn out differently than they look like they're gonna, even after the point of no return. Clannad effectively dumped a fantasy Kool-Aid packet into the refreshing water of its story, but never bothered to stir in any sugar to make it palatable. We kept watching, wishing for an explanation that would clarify and justify these supernatural plot twists. It wasn't until a few episodes before the end of the sequel series, Clannad After Story, that it was revealed this whole business was a total waste of our time.

This was not a situation like the end of Neon Genesis Evangelion where everything suddenly goes from making sense to not making sense to the casual viewer; this was a situation like Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull where there are hints that there might be aliens, even though there doesn't need to be aliens, and then aliens show up in the last five minutes because wouldn't it be fun to have aliens. It damages the integrity of a work of fiction to include a wild plot twist that completely redefines the fictional universe for the sake of this one thing that might be neat to have.

Now, I'm willing to concede that the translation might be somewhat to blame. Netflix offered only the dubbed version, not subbed, and it was apparent from some of the supposedly clever dialogue with Fuko and the hyper-intelligent Kotomi that we were missing valuable nuances lost from the original Japanese. Perhaps this alternate world business also made more sense before the translation.

As I understand from skimming Clannad's Wikipedia page, the series is based on an interactive story/dating simulation where the player, as Okazaki, can choose to pursue any of the girls as a romantic interest. With that in mind, it makes more sense that a few episodes of Clannad and Clannad After Story are "what if?" scenarios that explore what would have happened if Okazaki had started dating Tomoyo, or gotten entangled with twin sisters Ryou and Kyou, or if he had still married Nagisa but never had to suffer through her death after childbirth or the eventual death of their daughter. These alternate reality episodes are certainly intriguing, but the series could have fit them in without ever going off the deep end with fantasy explanations.

One option: Don't even bother to explain them. Let them be bonus "what if?" scenarios, and leave it at that. Another option: Address the scientific possibility of alternate universes up front, instead of waiting halfway through the series to start a story arc that treats the subject like mystical forbidden research. There's no middle ground with fantasy: embrace it as fact, or leave it out entirely. Don't let it dribble all over something that is more satisfying and complete without it.

I'm annoyed about the whole situation because Clannad was shaping up to be the first totally normal, relatively serious slice-of-life anime I'd ever truly liked. Before the alternate timeline episodes started popping up, I'd even had a debate with my wife that Okazaki had absolutely no chemistry with Nagisa, and would have been better off getting together with Tomoyo (or, as I called her, "Kicky Girl," because I had a heck of a time remembering names in this show). I never debate fictional dating relationships in the hypothetical. I debate the canonicity of Star Trek episodes.

Clannad hooked me in a way I'd never been hooked before, which is why the sloppily resolved game-changing fantasy twist didn't just disappoint, but ruined the whole show. Now it fell into the category of "dramas with an element of fantasy," and having seen my fair share of Escaflownes and Fruits Baskets that seamlessly integrated fantasy elements into normal everyday life, Clannad couldn't stack up against the competition as a complete package.

I did like both Clannad and Clannad After Story. My interest waned when the charm of being a wholly "normal" anime was revoked. I felt vindicated when a whole episode was devoted to proving me right that Kicky Girl was a perfect match for Okazaki in some other timeline. It felt like drudgery to watch Okazaki pursue Nagisa for the next several episodes afterwards, knowing he had left behind the only girl who was both more encouraging and more encouraged by being closer than friends with him. I warmed up to the show again when Okazaki moved out and could see how much of a positive impact Nagisa had on him, and vice-versa. I became indifferent to the show after Nagisa died, and their daughter's death a few episodes later just felt hollow. Then there was the big flash of light where everything changed and no one had died, but by that point the idea of parallel universes and alternate timelines was a cheap excuse to bring in a happy ending and to cleverly stretch the budget through a few more episodes.

Perhaps in some alternate universe I'm writing about how great it was that Clannad used thoughtful explanations and effective foreshadowing to get me excited about all the different branching storylines--some happy, some sad--all the while leaving enough clues to make the biggest mystery of the show be which timeline was the "real" one, instead of why a few mishandled supernatural elements had to sully what was otherwise an enjoyable and compelling character-centric story.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

That Old Familiar Itch

It's weird, the feeling I get this time of year.

No matter how long it's been since I stopped playing, it seems like the game calls to me, every year come April.

I've got baseball in the blood, I guess, and that's just how it is. And, hopefully, that's how it'll be for a long time.

Because as much as I miss playing--sometimes to the point where it's painful--I still like the fact that I miss it.

I don't know how much sense that makes, and I hesitate to make the "ghost limb" analogy, but I guess what I'm saying is, I'm glad that somewhere--deep down as it may be--there's still a little part of the game in me.

So as April and Opening Day approaches in the big leagues, and as high schools and colleges and little leagues all over the country get ready for another season at the ballpark--in the dirt and on the grass and at the plate--I'm getting ready, too.

And that's just how it should be.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Spring is...Springing

Last night I drove home pretty late. On a Thursday night in my town (and in most towns), that usually means the streets will be pretty busy, the bars and restaurants will be crowded, and really, there will be people in every direction.

That’s exactly what the scene was like last night; probably a little more so since the weather here has been so nice lately. It was great to see these things--indications that spring is on its way and winter will soon be behind us.

And, sure, like any typical night, there are idiots out who have had too much to drink, or are just naturally inclined to being idiots. But that’s just part of it all, and, really, if there’s not some jerk being too loud outside or inside a bar on a Thursday night, then the world isn’t spinning like it should.

Or something.

In any case, just seeing people out and about, having fun, was nice. Usually, I’m simply driving past all that, leaving the office way too late to even think about hanging out or doing anything even remotely...human.

But last night we had an office thing and I left work at a reasonable hour to make it there (almost) in time for its start, and I ended up sticking around for a while. And it was a lot of fun to get out and hang out and, frankly, act my age.

I'd like to say I'm planning on doing more of that, but I'm in my busy season and I don't envision much free time in the next few weeks.

So for now, at least, I'll take my one night out, even if there won't be another one for quite some time.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Questing for a Quest

I've been told to prepare a Dungeons & Dragons quest for this upcoming weekend. We'll be having company, and there'll be plenty of time for a hearty one-shot campaign. A whole afternoon or even a whole day of tabletop roleplaying? I've put such things together with less time to prepare before. The trouble is, my mind has been elsewhere this time around.

If you couldn't tell from the posts this month, I'm high on a YouTube kick. I just wrapped up nearly two years of video work on one project, just released one big experiment of a video, and am already prepping for my next video series. I'm getting caught up on all the comments I haven't responded to, and my creative attention is pretty squarely focused on YouTube, at least when I'm not redirecting it toward my ongoing GameCola endeavors.

Writing about YouTube has been rather effortless; strong opinions flow easily onto the (electronic) page, and posts centered around a single video take very little time to draft. Combined with the low-pressure deadline of having something up by 1 PM, and the reduced e-mail banter between Alex and myself because of his new job, I've been dedicating less of my time to the blog, and my other creative endeavors have been claiming that extra available time...but it's not quite enough extra time to make me feel like I need another side project.

That's where D&D comes in: If I want to write a new campaign, it's gotta be a proper side project, and not just something I chip away at when I feel like it. My best quests have generally been the ones I've thrown myself into preparing, and especially considering this might be the first quest in a brand-new world, I want to do this right. I've already got some ideas swirling around upstairs, but I've needed the push to do something with them.

I was participating in a GameCola podcast last night, and one of our conversation topics prompted me to dig up my Monster Manual. Simply opening that book, glimpsing the familiar images as i went to look something sent a spark into the back of my mind where D&D has been lurking, and now a tiny creative flame burns within my brain. I find myself reminiscing of the times in college when I got lost in world-building, and I catch myself staring off in the direction of the display shelves holding my larger-sized D&D miniatures.

I'm also finding myself finally back in the mood to return to Morrowind and levitate around the countryside some more. I had been playing the game fairly regularly until the week I ramped up the recording to finish my final Mega Man 6 video, and it's been difficult to convince myself to go back to trekking across the continent to fill in the unexplored dark parts of the map that are bugging me. With some time away from Morrowind, it's much more apparent how much of an enormous time-suck it is. An unexpectedly fun and engaging time-suck, to be sure, but not as productive as pouring that same amount of time into recording a video or writing an article. Looking up from YouTube for a few minutes has reminded me that I could use some time to disengage myself from my side projects and immerse myself in a relaxing fantasy world.

There might be hope for a proper one-shot quest this weekend after all.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Waiting for Wednesday, Volume 4, Issue 12

Wednesday again, eh? Didn’t we just do this? Fine, fine. I guess I’ll just have to write something up for today, then. This whole 1:00 posting thing has really saved my butt in terms of getting new content up on the blog, but it's also taught me a lesson about myself.

No matter how much extra time I have to do something, I'm always going to put it off until the last possible moment. I guess it's kind of my thing.


Luckily (for all of us), it’s an uncharacteristically heavy week for me at the comics shop, so instead of a lengthy (and no doubt pithy) introduction, let’s get right to the good stuff. At the top of my list today is the latest issue of Eric Powell’s The Goon.
Today’s issue 38 promises to delve deeper into the back story of Powell’s main character, giving readers a look at the life of Goon’s beloved Aunt Kizzie. As Goon himself has said before, she was the only person who ever cared for him, and her death (not a spoiler, folks, as it happens in issue one) is the inciting incident that puts Goon on his life’s path.

While Powell has given readers glimpses into Kizzie’s life in the past, we haven’t been privy to the whole story, and this issue looks to be a major one in the overarching tale the writer/artist has been telling.

Here's the solicitation information from Dark Horse:

You might have thought you knew everything about Goon's past after Chinatown, but there's more to the story. And most of that story has to do with his aunt. How did he come to be raised by her? How did she wind up as a circus performer? And what is the tragedy that ties them inseparably together?

* Dive deeper into the Goon's origin!

* The Goon is back--and bimonthly!

* "Powell is serious about his craft, turning in gorgeously grotesque artwork that balances the horror and humor of the script remarkably well. Part H.P. Lovecraft, part Harold Gray, Eric Powell is a twisted genius with the talent to compensate for his perversion."--The A.V. Club

It just seems that all is once again right in the world with The Goon now back on a consistent bi-monthly shipping schedule.

Dark Horse has been churning out new editions of all the trades, so keeping up with the series has never been easier for readers looking to jump on at any given time.

And, obviously, I suggest you do so. Right now.

Before you head out to buy up every Goon trade at your local comics shop, however, I have a question—what are you Waiting for?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Freedom of Dissension

As I've discussed previously, I'm not entirely fond of YouTube's recent universal channel overhaul. So, instead of dealing with the frustrations of the new channel comments section, I have decided to stick it to The Man and create my own channel comments section, by way of a video specifically intended for general comments.

The response has been overwhelming so far, and I can tell that this idea has really struck a chord with my viewers. So many people are equally disgruntled about the forced channel redesign, and so many people are willing to go along with my experiment to circumvent social media's latest outrage.

Here's the kicker: My channel comments section is still open for the people who want to use it. I don't mandate drastic changes and call them improvements; I offer new ideas and present them as alternatives. I am not so inflexible or convinced my way is best that I can't entertain more than one possible mode of expression at a time.

This video is simply one more place to strike up a conversation. If it acts as a successful replacement for channel comments until a more favorable redesign, then I'll be happy. If it's a flash-in-the-pan experiment that ends up being little more than a curious footnote in my channel's history, then I've at least produced an informative and entertaining footnote I can be proud of.

Either way, I'm pleased to present to you my latest video.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Best Laid Plans

This post was all planned out and (nearly) ready to go, when everything blew up. And, when I say, “nearly ready to go,” I mean, of course, that I had a plan as to what I was going to write about—mostly because last night was the Season Two finale of AMC’s The Walking Dead.

But then all kinds of stuff happened in the office, and a slow Monday morning turned into something else entirely.

Things have calmed down for the moment, though, so I’m gonna try talking about last night’s Walking Dead before I get pulled into something else.

The episode featured what was probably the most intense zombie attack sequence, certainly in the show’s history, but also in quite a while when it comes to horror movies. The action was non-stop, and the show ramped up the pressure on its main characters.

The promos leading up to the show hammered home the point that there were only 13 survivors remaining, and MINOR SPOILER ALERT, not all of those 13 made their way out.

And, for once in a horror story, the deaths weren't completely gratuitous, and instead made quite a bit of sense.

I plan to write about the episode at length later this week, in a spoiler-rific post, so stay tuned!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sunday Spotlight: Stop Making Sense

I never pegged myself as a Talking Heads fanboy. I'd heard a few of the group's songs on the radio—"Psycho Killer," "Burning Down the House," and my personal favorite, "Once in a Lifetime"—but more often than not, something about their music grated on me. Considering the ingredients of their music, this shouldn't have been the case at all.

Like many of my favorite bands of the 80's, Talking Heads embraced the synthesizer. As my mother once pointed out, I like anything that sounds like video game music. The distinctive vocal style of lead singer David Byrne adds an endearing quirkiness that is particularly fun to emulate when singing along. The avant-garde lyrics touch on a broad range of subjects and are often as deep (and incomprehensible) as any thought-provoking work of literature. Despite all this, many of Talking Heads' songs bothered me just enough to keep me from claiming I was a fan, but I could never put my finger on what, specifically, was the culprit.

As with most of my recent musical discoveries, Pandora was the one to open my ears to a new fandom. I believe it was "Life During Wartime" that came up on one of my playlists at work, but instead of the album cut, it was the version from the "Special New Edition" of Talking Heads' 1984 live album/concert movie Stop Making Sense. I don't recall having heard any version of the song before, but it was unexpectedly catchy.

Then another song from that album came up. Well, not immediately—Pandora is generally good about not playing multiple songs in close proximity from the same album or artist. Unless that artist is Gary Numan, who on one occasion appeared either four or five times in a row with songs from a studio album, a live album, an album with Tubeway Army, and a remastered album with Tubeway Army. At any rate, the Heads reared their...ah...heads again, and I found myself humming along to another tune I wasn't expecting to like so much.

My recollection on the matter is a little fuzzy, but I believe it was after the third song from that album that I decided to go out and buy Stop Making Sense. The only prerequisites I have for purchasing an album are that I trust the artist enough to produce something I'd probably be interested in, or in this case, I'd heard three or more songs from the album that I liked enough to hear on-demand. The fact that I'd previously only heard three songs from this artist that I liked that much made this purchase that much more of a novelty to me.

After grooving along to live cuts of "Slippery People," "What a Day That Was," and the oft-covered "Take Me to the River," I was officially hooked. I no longer liked a few songs by Talking Heads; I liked Talking Heads. And I'd figured out what had been holding me back from claiming myself as a fan.

Almost without exception, I prefer the studio albums of the artists I listen to over their live recordings. At least with the artists I listen to, the technical precision I appreciate in the album cut can so easily be lost in the energy and spontaneity of a live performance. Harry Chapin and James Taylor are about the only two artists whose live CDs (The Bottom Line Encore Collection and Live, respectively) have remained staples in my music collection; the texture and precision of their songs are just as rich as they were in the recording room, yet the presence of a crowd draws out the performers' personalities. They're not just playing music; they're interacting with the listeners, and you can feel that personal connection even if you weren't there to hear them in person.

It wasn't until listening to Stop Making Sense that things started to make sense: Talking Heads is that rare exception whose studio work, to my ear, doesn't hold a candle to their live performances. I heard the album cut of "Life During Wartime" not long after hearing it for the first time on the live CD, and it was a little jarring how clinical it sounded by comparison. I still enjoyed the tune, but the quirkiness and emotion were subdued to the point where the Heads sounded more nervous without an audience in front of them, as though they couldn't properly be themselves.

Nevertheless, I'm finding a greater appreciation for the Heads' studio work because of how much I like this one live album. It's the same principle at work that allowed me to start enjoying the disappointing soundtrack of Mega Man 10 after hearing some fantastic remixes—by association, the original songs sound better, and there's an added layer of interest in listening for the similarities and differences that characterize each version. Now that I know what the Heads can sound like, I'm curious to explore more of their music—and from what I've heard on Pandora since Stop Making Sense first came up, I get the feeling I've got a good many new albums ahead of me.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Saturday...I Think (Also, a Review)

Friday morning kind of bled into Friday night, and then all of a sudden it was Saturday morning. While I may still have been at work in the wee hours of today--and it's also possible that I forgot to eat both lunch and dinner during my epic Friday--I somehow feel pretty good today.

Maybe it's because the weather is turning warmer here at Exfanding HQ, or maybe it's because I'm a little delirious, or perhaps it's because Andy Pettitte is back with the New York Yankees and all is once again right with the world.

It could be any of those things, really.

And, while the Andy Thing is pretty great, I'm leaning towards delirium.

So hang on tight, Exfanders, because this post is likely to get bumpy. That is, if I can remember what I wanted to--oh, right!

Last night--uh I mean Thursday night, I read Avengers: Children's Crusade, a book I talked about really wanting to buy earlier in the week.

Well, turns out I didn't love the story as much as I had hoped and as I read along, it became more and more obvious that the shipping delay in the single issues took its toll on the mini-series as a whole.

Every issue started with a very anachronistic style of recap, because, I'm sure, there was such a long waiting period between issues.

I'm a new-school comics reader, and frankly I find things like that tiresome.

But what really irked me about the book was the way in which the ending was handled. Again, I'm going to blame this on the fractured shipping schedule because writer Allan Heinberg knows his craft, and he knows it well.

But he rushed the heck out of this ending.

So much so, in fact, that the major event of the book was glossed over and literally covered up with smiles and hugs.

Now, I won't spoil what went down, but I will say that I really didn't like the way it went down. And that pretty much ruined my overall enjoyment of the book. Which is a real shame since this story--and the fallout from it--plays a big part in Marvel's upcoming events.

Don't get me wrong, there were things that I loved about the book--Heinberg's snappy dialogue makes for quick, fun reading and his characterization of Captain America as being both funny and understanding towards the Young Avengers endears Cap to readers.

There's certainly a sense of fun early on in the series--and even though the characters literally face a world-destroying threat, there's that feeling of high adventure that's so sorely lacking from so many of the current comics.

But when the Big Moment happens at the story's end, and actually, in the buildup to that moment, all fun goes out the window. There's really no victory for the characters, and many of them come off very much like, well, frankly, insensitive, unfeeling shells of people.

Which is in stark contrast to the bursting-with-life portrayals of these characters earlier on. Throughout the book, they wear their emotions on their sleeves, but when the Big Emotional Thing happens?

A hug here, a grimace there.

And that's kind of how I felt about the book once I put it down--a shrug and a grimace.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Bending the Rules

Stephen King wrote an incredible book about his craft, entitled On Writing. It’s a brilliantly written book by a master storyteller who's a classic no-nonsense kind of guy.

One of King's main points in the book is to get in, and then get out, of a scene as quickly as possible. It's what stuck with me as I read the book, since, obviously, I have a tendency to go on for far too long in my writing.

But the thing about that is...King doesn’t take his own advice.

Known for his long form fiction, King has the tendency to write massive tomes. Like, serious, thousand-page buggers. He spends lots and lots of time in important scenes, letting his characters do and say things until they're finished doing and saying things.

And, often, it takes King characters a while to finish.

But, I think, somewhere in that contradiction lies King’s best piece of advice when it comes to writing—and, really, to doing anything creative. Follow the rules, but only until you come up with something better.

Or something more fun.

This is especially true with writing fiction, I think, but it can be applied to all forms of creative output. I think, as anyone else who needs to work within certain boundaries at work, it's always better to do something differently than how others have done it.

As long as it works.

And there's the key. It's cool and different to be cool and different, but that won't fly--ever--when what you come up with just doesn't work. But when it does work, even though it's different and not what people are used to seeing?

That's when you go with it.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Mega Man 2: The Power(less) Fighters

I seem to be on a YouTube kick this month. If I'm not writing about metropolis anxiety or YouTube's forced channel "upgrades," then I'm recording videos--if not on my own, then collaboratively with a few of my friends and fans.

This past weekend, Kirby Pink and I attempted to record a joint playthrough of the arcade game Mega Man 2: The Power Fighters. What we ended up with were a two-part podcast about how all our attempts had been foiled, and one video where we somehow succeeded.

I realize I've yet to post about a few of my previous collaborations, so you can expect to see mention of those fairly soon.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Waiting for Wednesday, Volume 4, Issue 11

Well, thank goodness for Nathaniel's suggestion to push our daily posting time to 1:00. Now I'm just trying my best not to miss that (self-imposed) deadline. We'll see how I do.

There are more comics than usual on my list for today, and there's one big Marvel hardcover that I'm really interested in. But I'll get to that in a minute.

First, I'd like to direct your attention to one of the most interesting comics-centric interviews I've read in a very long time. Conducted by independent publisher Seraphemera, this interview features the one and only Alan Moore.

In the piece, the legendary creator of Watchmen, V for Vendetta, and countless others, talks about a whole mess of things. Most interesting among them, however, are his feelings about the recently announced prequels to Watchmen, coming soon from DC.

Moore, as you might expect, is not happy about the books, and he is certainly not shy about telling it exactly as he sees it.

While I may not agree with his views on the current comics landscape being devoid of talent, I do sympathize with his feelings of ownership and how he feels cheated out of his creation.

Do yourself a favor and check out the full interview--it is fascinating reading, I promise. You can find it right here.

Now, onto the books.

Well, book. From Marvel, we have the hardcover collection of Avengers: Children's Crusade, a nine-part series that had a somewhat...rocky...shipping schedule when it was releasing as single issues.
From Young Avengers creators Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung (who provides breathtaking art for the series), Children's Crusade was a book that I knew wouldn't ship on time, and so decided to pass on until the story was eventually collected.

Well, it's been collected, and apparently, it tells a key story in the Marvel universe moving forward. Here's the solicitation information from Marvel:

The Young Avengers return in an epic saga by series creators Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung! When Wiccan’s reality-altering powers begin to rival those of the Scarlet Witch, the young hero sets out on a quest to find her that spans the Marvel Universe and pits Wiccan against both the Avengers and the Young Avengers.

But will Wiccan’s desire to solve the mystery of his parentage be his salvation or his undoing? With three words, the Scarlet Witch changed the world forever — and with her return, nothing will ever be the same for the Marvel Universe. This self-contained event reintroduces and redefines the Young Avengers and the Scarlet Witch for the Heroic Age, and is essential reading for any Avengers fan.

Reviews of this book have been overwhelmingly positive, and I can honestly say that this is the Marvel book I'm most looking forward to reading. It's a bit pricey, but it's over-sized and it contains quite a bit of content.

While Heinberg's and Cheung's track record for turning out stories in a timely fashion may not be stellar, their work speaks for itself, and I really can't wait to get my hands on this title.

So, hey. It's just a couple minutes after 1:00, and I'm pretty much done with this post. Before I hit that orange PUBLISH button, though...what are you Waiting for?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Coping with the Time Change

OK, here's the deal: Our ability to post at 11 AM every day has been compromised. Alex and I both have been struggling for the past few weeks with meeting our self-imposed daily deadline, and instead of giving up on sticking to a routine, we've decided to change our posting time to 1 PM.

That's 1 PM Eastern US Time.

This will afford us a few extra hours of sleep on the weekends and the possibility of writing during our lunch breaks if we don't get around to writing until the day our post is intended to go up (a more common occurrence than we'd care to admit). And, as I recall, there was a period of time in the early days of our blog when we posted at 1 PM anyhow.

So, there's your announcement for the day. In case you were going to panic or something.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Exfanding Review: Walking Dead Season 2, Episode 12

As I’ve done pretty much every Monday over the course of this season, today I’d like to talk about the latest episode of Walking Dead, on AMC. And, as usual, there will be MAJOR SPOILERS if you haven’t yet seen the episode.

And, unlike past SPOILER WARNINGS on this site, this time I plan to COMPLETELY RUIN LAST NIGHT’S EPISODE IF YOU HAVE NOT YET WATCHED IT, so please take heed and come back after you’ve seen the show.

Okay? Okay, here we go with the Dash Marks of Doom...

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Okay, that should do it.

On to the Good Stuff.

Last night, in the penultimate episode of Season Two, the Thing that all readers of Kirkman’s graphic novel have been waiting for finally happened. And, while it didn’t happen exactly as it went down in the book, I think it worked quite well.

Of course, I’m talking about the death of Shane, a pretty major event that happened almost immediately in the book. One of my favorite characters on the show, Shane brought a tension to the group that is going to be tough to replace.

His death at the hands of Rick will have repercussions with the other members, sure, and he’ll eventually need to explain his actions, but that constant—and sometimes terrifying— friction between the two male leads will be missed.

Luckily (for viewers, at least), Shane’s death wasn’t the biggest shock of last night’s episode.

Instead, it was revealed that it’s not just those bitten by “walkers” who are coming back to “life.” This is by far the biggest diversion from the book in a season filled with diversions. This adds a completely different dynamic to the show, and to the world these characters (try their best to) live in.

From the clips we’ve seen of next week’s Season Two finale, it appears that AMC is going to give viewers a 90-minute assault, à la Night of the Living Dead.

Seriously, did you see how many zombies were shambling out of the woods just before the credits rolled? Next week is going to be intense, and I think it’s pretty clear that the cast going into the episode will not be the same as the cast coming out of the episode.

While Shane’s death may have been a nice little swerve from the books, this new twist with who can and can’t come back from the dead is interesting and it opens things up to a more “TV-friendly” zombie show. And, by that I mean, with more zombies out there, it’s more visually interesting for viewers.

So, Shane’s death—while not as shocking as it was in the book—still lived up to the hype that the series has built up around it these past couple of months. And what’s to come seems to put what’s already happened to shame in terms of ratcheting up the violence and horror.

So I, for one, am quite excited to see where things go.

I will say, though, that I'm going to enjoy this season a whole lot more on DVD, knowing what's going to happen before it actually does. Because for the only time, ever, with a TV series, I find my stomach in knots during most of the season.

And that, dear readers, is how horror should be done.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sunday Spotlight: Mario Party 2

As anyone who's seen my Backloggery knows, I am a collector of video games. As a retro game enthusiast, most of my acquisitions nowadays are done in bulk and on the cheap at conventions; the games I'm looking for are no longer carried by most brick-and-mortar retailers, and the shipping costs for ordering online are often as much as the games I'm ordering. At this point, I'm filling out my collection with lower-profile and lesser-known games (such as Solar Jetman and Star Wars: Yoda Stories), along with occasional high-profile games that are common enough to have dropped in price over the years--such as Mario Party 2.

I played the original Mario Party when it first came out, and I've enjoyed several years of dice rolling and minigames with friends and family alike, even after picking up Mario Party 4-8 (out of sequence, mind you). I have yet to see a single Mario Party game that is so superior to any of its predecessors that it renders them obsolete. Some games are better than others, to be sure, but it all comes down to which combination of characters, game boards, minigames, gimmicks, and game modes you have a hankering for.

Mario Party 2 and 3 had been missing from my collection for some time, and it wasn't until New York Comic-Con 2011 that I found both games at a reasonable price--for the cost these games go for online, I could throw my own party where the participants win real gold coins. However, it wasn't until this weekend that I got to try either of them out, with my wife and my Best Man along for the ride.

The first thing that struck me about the game was the title screen--every incarnation of Mario Party I've played so far has found a way to proudly integrate the game's number into the title, the 2 looked like a sad, tacked-on attempt to make the game seem different from the first one. Maybe it's just me.

The music was quite similar to the music of the original, but I daresay I prefer the newer soundtrack--and I'm rather partial to the first game's tunes. Mario Party 2's soundtrack--what we heard of it, at least--was upbeat and catchy, and we joked about having a Mario dance party instead.

After destroying all the hard-earned saved data of the previous owner (gotta love used games), we hopped a train to Western Land. Whereas in the first Mario Party--as well as in 4-8--the characters run around the game board as themselves, in this edition, the characters dressed up in Wild West outfits and played sheriff.

Nearly all the minigames we played in our 20-turn game were adapted or directly ripped from the first Mario Party. Variations on the "dive for the sunken treasure," "drag someone's facial features around to match the picture," and "hop on the platform whose color matches the flag I'm holding up" minigames were in abundance, with changes ranging no further than from different graphics to a slight change in goal or mechanics.

Not that I'm complaining--I always lament when my favorite minigames don't make it into the next installment--but I've never seen a Mario Party game re-use so many of the same ideas with so little to mask how much they've recycled. I've also never seen a Mario Party game with so many baffling minigame explanations--even after reading and rereading each set of directions, we still had several occasions where one or more of us managed to win without understanding the rules, or lose before figuring out what was going on.

The game board itself was also a slight bit confusing--later games mark the paths you can take through a level a bit better, but you catch on quickly after the first time you choose a road that leads you away from the star you're trying to obtain. It's also worth noting that we were playing this game on a projector screen with a fair amount of sunlight peeking through the curtains and blinds, so it's possible we may have missed some of the finer details pointing us in the right direction (though the larger viewing area of playing on a projector was totally worth it).

Overall, our first outing with Mario Party 2 was a blast. Despite one or two obtuse minigames, the in-game rewards were plentiful, the competition stayed friendly, and there were a good many laugh-out-loud moments thanks to some sight gags, amusing dialogue, a Chance Time event so horrible that it confused the announcer (you'd have to hear it to appreciate it), excessive hootenannying (seriously, hootenannying), and ridiculous minigame antics (such as Peach and Wario both bouncing around on Luigi and each other until they both ended up falling off the platform and into the drink). That's the kind of Mario Party I haven't played in a long time, and I'm looking forward to more.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The End of an Era

I began recording during the summer of 2010. The teaser video came out in September 2010. The official playthrough spanned from October 2010 to August 2011. The first bonus video was released in December 2011. Now, today, with the release of the second bonus video in March 2012, I can bring this YouTube era to a close.

I am done with Mega Man 6.

I hope you enjoy.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Exfanding Review: Justice League: Doom

Last week, the latest in the ever-growing line of DC Universe Animated Original Movies was released. I picked it up and, somehow, even managed to watch it.

With these DC releases, there’s usually very little middle ground—I’ve bought a number of them, and it’s been my experience that a title is either quite good or quite bad. Either the movie works, or it doesn’t.

In the case of Justice League: Doom, everything definitely works.

The characters mirror their comic book counterparts nicely, the voice actors are spot-on, and there’s that perfect mix of action, interesting plot, and witty dialogue that is lacking in so many comic book-to-film adaptations.

DC gets that the people buying these DVDs—which are often rated PG-13, by the way—understand who their characters are, and as such, the audience can be thrown right into a story without any background.

And when you’re trying to tell a fast-paced super hero story, any time wasted on pointless introductions only succeeds in sucking the life out of the film’s momentum.

Adapted from the new-classic JLA story “Babel,” Justice League: Doom features the final screenplay written by the late, great Dwayne McDuffie, and it's heavy on both character moments and great action beats.

Doom is the story of what happens when Batman’s JLA contingency plan--a detailed rundown of how The Dark Knight would take down each one of the members of The League in the event they were to go rogue--is stolen by the League’s greatest enemies.

What results is a harrowing example of what can go wrong for the good guys when the bad guys get everything right.

There are legitimate "oh-uh" moments in the flick, and on more than one occasion I just wasn't sure how the good guys would prevail. In a medium where we know the outcome of pretty much every story we're told, that's saying something.

McDuffie, as he'd done so many times in his too-short career, turned in something that was both thought-provoking and punch-you-in-the-face exciting--the perfect balance for a a good, solid super hero story.

So I can say quite loudly that Justice League: Doom receives the Official Exfanding Stamp of Approval.

So you know it's good.

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Happy Friday, everyone!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Packed Like Lemmings Into Shiny Metal Boxes

Pardon me for a moment--I don't usually post about YouTube twice in a row, but it seems appropriate today, for I have mandatorily succumbed to the new channel design.

I'll concede that my channel needed a bit of a change. I was aiming for a new background as soon as I got started on Mega Man 7, but a total overhaul isn't so bad. It's streamlined. My sidebar is cleaner, and it's easier to link to here, GameCola, my Facebook page, etc. My playlists look nice all organized below the featured video on the front page of my channel. Overall, I like it.

Assuming all I'm going to do is look at it.

As a channel administrator, it's a bit of a nightmare. I receive an appreciable volume of channel comments on a weekly basis--it's now two clicks to the comments instead of none; I can't separate my responses to different people with line spaces in a single comment (it's all one big, ugly paragraph, or a separate. Comment. For. Each. Person.); and the decision to treat comments as part of a news feed just gives me that much more to read and scroll through before I get to any real content. Yuck.

That's one big thing I've noticed about the redesign: YouTube channels are suddenly more about social interactions than content, as though having friends is a replacement for having something to do with friends. Two of the three channel design templates focus on everything but your videos, and while I can understand where someone might want to use their channel primarily to promote other people's channels, the available options all translate to me as various degrees of obscuring my content.

I'm also not a fan that uploaded videos are the first thing you see by default under the Videos tab. My channel is set up such that videos are really meant to be grouped into series rather than appearing independently. Once again, two clicks instead of none or one. Granted, I have my playlists all on the front page, but there'll come a time when it'll be too much to keep them all there...and right now, I can't organize any of the playlists on the Videos tab, either, unless it has to do with chronological order (which isn't necessarily what I want).

I will admit that customizing the channel was fun. I spent the better part of my lunch break tinkering with options, and I enjoyed sneaking in an in-joke or two (which are only there for my own amusement, but so much the better if anyone else notices them). Helps to take my mind off my metropolis anxiety--though that's also being alleviated by having some time to record more commentary this week.

Because it's likely going to be a hassle to respond to channel comments anymore, I'm considering alternatives, such as nudging discussions into a fan forum or creating a filler video with the sole purpose of being the preferred place to leave general comments. I'm willing to give the new format a chance, but a part of me really wants to be a clever rebel.

I keep saying this about innovations: I don't mind new ideas, so long as I still have the option to stick with older ideas that are still equally valid. Circumventing the system even to a slight degree is my way of objecting to the technological dictatorships I keep seeing. I dig that YouTube accepted user feedback during the design phase, and I'm grateful for every option and improvement we do have. I'm resistant to this apparent obsession with stuffing content into picture boxes so hard that a little bit of text leaks out over the edge.

I like my lists and menus. I like being able to identify exactly what I'm clicking on by reading rather than guessing at symbols or squinting at the incidental descriptions below the pictures. I'm a visual learner, but I don't process information as well in the format the universe seems to be adopting, and I can think of more than a few people who also object to the rapid and often drastic changes sweeping the technology landscape.

The Next Big Thing had better not get too big for its britches--technology is meant to serve the people, and not the other way around. Otherwise, when Skynet arrives, it won't be because our technology has become self-aware--it'll be because the designers left out the option to not be hunted down by Terminators.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Waiting for Wednesday, Volume 4, Issue 10

Not a whole lot of new product that I’m looking forward to today, which makes writing this up a bit easier since I was just handed an assignment that's due by the end of the day.

Hopefully this post will be up sometime before that. The end of the day, I mean.

Anyway, I do have a really interesting factoid that I learned at work that I'd like to share with you guys, so that's something at least.

Did you know that the playwright Samuel Beckett used to drive Andre the Giant to school when he was a kid? I...didn’t know that. But when I learned about it, my head nearly exploded.

Beckett is my favorite playwright (Waiting for Godot is my favorite play), and Andre is everyone's favorite person. So the thought of those two driving to school every morning is pretty awesome.

Apparently, they were neighbors, and Beckett was good friends with Andre's dad.

Like I said, pretty awesome.

Now, on to the comics. Or, should I say, comic. From Vertigo, today sees the first issue of Fairest ship. A spin-off of the incredible Fables ongoing series, Fairest is written by Bill Willingham (creator of Fables) and drawn by the excellent Phil Jimenez. Covers are by the incomparable Adam Hughes.
I'm reading Fables in trades, and I'm about halfway through the series at the moment. Still, I'm on board for this new series, as I have been constantly blown away at how good Willingham is.

Here's the solicitation information for issue one:

New York Times best-selling, award-winning creator Bill Willingham presents a new series starring the female FABLES.

Balancing horror, humor and adventure, FAIREST explores the secret histories of Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, Cinderella, The Snow Queen, Thumbelina, Snow White, Rose Red and others.The first 6 issue arc follows the misadventures of Briar Rose after she is stolen away by the goblin army in FABLES #107.

Fan-favorite artist Phil Jimenez (WONDER WOMAN, THE INVISIBLES) returns to Vertigo to pencil the opening storyline. Award-winning cover artist Adam Hughes (WONDER WOMAN, BATGIRL) provides covers, starting with a wraparound cover on issue #1.Future arcs will be written by 2011 Arthur C. Clarke winner Lauren Beukes with art by Inaki Miranda, and iZOMBIE scribe Chris Roberson with art by Shawn McManus! And remember: They may be beautiful, but there will be blood.

It sounds great, and it's definitely something I think will be right up my alley. Hopefully I'll have a chance to go to the comic shop at some point (this week) to pick it up.


Trucking onward, Exfanders. Trucking onward. Also, what are you Waiting for?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Metropolis Anxiety

Okay, it's happening again. You remember my ghost town anxiety last year? It's that same sensation, except with lots more people. Metropolis anxiety. Well, perhaps "metropolis" suggests too large a group of people, but the sentiment is the same: there are a lot of people commenting on my YouTube channel, and it's getting me antsy for my latest video to be done.

It's now customary for there to be a 1d4-month gap between each installment of my Mega Man playthroughs. That's a little long for my taste. This time around, I released a video in mid-December, took a break through the holiday season, started assembling footage, recorded more footage I didn't realize I'd need--all of which got me to early February or so--and then I sat down to do commentary. I've been chipping away at commentary for a few weeks, and though I'm only four minutes away from completion, that's still another four hours of recording and at least an hour on top of that spent finalizing the video before it goes public.

It takes me forever to record these videos. I know that. Part of it's being a perfectionist (which my wife is helping me to ease back from), and part of it's having the right combination of time, focus, creativity, enthusiasm, and quiet. Even though I have minimal plans on the weekends these days and have the house to myself for a few hours each week, I'm rarely able to record when I most feel like it--which is generally during either my lunch break at work, or in the ten minutes between when I get home and when dinner is ready.

Graceful transition...

There's been a steady increase in the number of comments I'm growing weary of seeing. When will the next video be done? Will you be playing any other games? Have you heard about this trick that you failed to mention in your video two years ago that you've since been informed about on a monthly basis? Did you know I can do one thing that you can't, which obviously makes me a better gamer than you and invalidates all of your accomplishments? Do you want to respond to my inflammatory opinion, so I can argue with you until you say I'm right? I've convinced myself that a new video will give people something else to talk about, which makes me that much more antsy to be done.

There are, of course, the fans that make me eager to finish the next video, and not just anxious. My channel continues to be a source of personal encouragement, thoughtful discussion, and validation for my efforts. They're the people I'm really hurrying for. I've said repeatedly that I have some of the best YouTube fans out there, and it's not only because of the warm reception I get when a new video arrives. I've met some truly neat people over the past three years.

Wow, three years. The original plan was to only cover Mega Man 1-6, but my to-do list is far longer now. Wonder how long I can keep this up.