Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Socks: 2001 - 2014


Today, this morning in fact, we had to put one of my dogs down.

I guess it's not fair to call him my dog. He was my entire family's dog. He started out as my brother's dog. My mom brought home a terrier/dachshund blend from a local woman, and after talking it over with us, she decided to go get another dog from the litter as well.

It was weird and fitting that we wound up with the runt of the litter and the biggest pup as well. We named them Socks and Smudge. Smudge, the runt, was scrappier and feistier. Socks was more mellow. He was a chubby little roley-poley, so relaxed that he'd often fall asleep in your hands while you were carrying him.

It wasn't long after getting them that we decided they needed to be outside dogs. Once they'd matured a bit, they became too wild, tearing the house up constantly. Socks and his brother used to tag-team things until they'd reached their desired level of destruction. We once found them trotting down the hall carrying a couple of boards from my wooden floor that they had managed to chew out. Another time, they burrowed through the front of our wicker clothes hamper, out the side of it, into the side of the other, and out the front of it--with branching tunnels into our wall. They were like tornadoes, impossible to stop, and always spreading destruction in areas you don't expect.

When both of them got sick, we weren't sure they'd make it. Socks was the bigger, stouter one. He lived. Smudge didn't. We found him trying to bury his brother. Smudge crawled into the hole they'd dug under their dog house, and Socks was kicking dirt onto him with all he was worth.

Socks eventually came back inside, after his wild puppy years had left him and he mellowed out.

Socks became my dog for a while. Throughout high school--I don't know how or why--he got really attached to me and followed me everywhere. When I went to college, he became my Mom's dog, latching onto her and shadowing her for the rest of his life.

Over the years, Socks was always the good boy. We got another dog, a part min-pin/part-chihuahua that is loud and cranky and doofy and stubborn. We got a dachshund that was stupid--just...adorably, tragically stupid, y'all. But Socks was always the good boy. He didn't dig in the trash. He didn't tear up things. He didn't go potty inside the house. He was awesome.

Socks was old. He lived a long, good life. And he was very, very loved. I think he knew that. I think he knew, even at the end, that we all thought he was a good boy.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Sports and Me

Attribution Some rights reserved by andertoons
Sports are a thing that I just don't get. I am not that into them. I mean...I've tried? It's not that the games can't be exciting? But as a whole, I just do not care about sports.

This is awkward, especially when you live in the northwest corner of Arkansas near Fayetteville. Everyone hear, they love them some Razorback football. I have met people who--no joke--have decorated their entire house in nothing but Razorback themed memorabilia. It's very damned intimidating.

I've always liked the idea of being into sports. I have seen Remember the Titans at least 6 times because I had to watch it twice a year in middle school. My gym coach was a huge fan. He also at some point showed us The Rookie. I used to own and have watched Angels in the Outfield several times. But ultimately, the actual act of following sports teams and watching sports games always left me cold. The movies always made every game seem like an action packed, drama-ridden event of the ages. But the actual games were a bit...slower...

When I was very young--probably around the first or second grade?--I tried playing baseball. The very first practice, I was playing catch with a couple of kids. I looked away for a second when I heard, "Heads up!" Then SMACK. I got hit in the eye with a softball. I passed out. That was pretty much the end of that.

When I was between 8 and 14, I wanted to be a basketball player. I collected basketball cards. I watched Space Jam. I practiced shooting hoops outside for hours and hours. The one thing I didn't do? Actually watch the games. Like...almost ever. I was mostly into it because my step-brother was into it, and I looked up to him. I also tragically lacked any sort of athletic talent at all.

My love of basketball died when I joined the junior high basketball team. I spent the entire first semester--football season--running laps, fighting with my asthma, trying to get in shape to get ready for basketball season. When the time came, I was ecstatic. I made it one practice, blacked out, had to take my inhaler three times. I finally just hid in the locker room until practice was over. I was so hyped up on meds, I felt like I was experiencing a one-person earthquake. My coach wound up making fun of me for hiding, and that was the end of that experience.

From the ages of 14-16, I was not into sports. I turned my attention first to anime, then fantasy novels, then superhero cartoons like Justice League, and Teen Titans. It wasn't until I was in my Junior year that I remember getting kind of into sports again. My best friend stated getting super into football because of his family. I'm not sure why they arbitrarily decided to start following football. Up until that point, every person in his family was a giant nerd, but one day they were like FOOTBALL! DO YOU WATCH THE FOOTBALL? MAD LOVE FOR THE FOOTBALL, Y'ALL!

Since I didn't want to be left behind as my friend's tastes evolved, I arbitrarily picked team names from a list of NFL names. I wound up weirdly sticking to bird names. My friend liked the Eagles, so I liked them, too. I also chose the Ravens, the Falcons, and the Seahawks. I was really into birds. It was weird, guys.

This feigned interest didn't last long. I'd say...a couple months? At most? Because sports is boring guys. There's no narrative to follow, at least, not really on a game-by-game basis. You'd have to catch the whole season to understand the stakes. And there are long stretches where there isn't really any action, just people milling around.

It's a little embarrassing being so completely not into sports. I can argue all day long that following comics is no more or less nerdy than being able to recite your favorite team and player's stat history, but when it comes down to it, there are way more dudes into football than there are into comics.

I'm hoping the rise of superhero movies will mean that eventually there will be a flip of some sort, and the majority of the public will get really into superheroes and comics. Maybe people will wear their favorite superhero's (or hero team's) logo on a shirt. They'll discuss their latest fan theories over beers at parties, have their favorite writers and artists' stats memorized. They'll debate which eras of their favorite comics were the best.

Maybe they'll even start, like, a Little League Fantasy Superhero Team League, like a superhero LARPing game. I'll go to my son or daughter's first event and cheer them on as they battle some rival team in a pre-determined scenario. I'll boo refs over bad calls and get increasingly drunk, eventually being expelled from the game for getting belligerent with the team leader for not playing my son more.

"She's a natural!" I'll bellow as they usher me out. "You're squandering her talents benching her!"

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Comics Diversity: This Topic Makes Me Thor

Diversity has become a dirty word in certain parts of the internet. Those places are often populated with assholes, but they're loud, and they're vocal, and they make sure we hear them.

I wanted to talk about comic book diversity because I find diversity very interesting and something that we should all be striving towards as best we can in this broken, twisted up system we have to work with.


There's a certain samey-sameyness to video games that has been well documented at this point. Recently Ubisoft got into a shitload of trouble when they had the audacity to say that females were too hard to render. Now, I read one tweet from an animator that said that it does take extra work to create a separate model for females as they are built different, would move somewhat differently, and you know? Fine. Okay. But if developers can spend millions of dollars making sure the environments, water, fires, winds, and stubble on some dude's asshole looks realistic...why can't they toss that little bit of extra work toward females as well?

I don't want to talk about video games, though. I want to focus in on comics, which have had their own series of struggles besides the lack of diveristy (see: escher girls and the hawkeye initiative).

When you think of superheroes, the first several that come to mind are dudes. White dudes usually. Almost certainly straight. And sure, you can come up with a few women off of the top of your head, but one could easily follow those female names with, "Okay, and how many have their own consistent solo title?" The answer would be: not many.

Which is why Marvel is particularly interesting. They've been killing it lately with the diversity. They announced that the Thor that we all know has lost the ability to wield his hammer, and a new Thor--a woman--will take over. There are of course interesting things to consider: "Thor" is the name of the character...so...it is considered a title now? Like "Darth" in Star Wars? Because we've been told that make no mistake she is Thor.


And we also have a new Captain America: Sam Wilson, aka the Falcon.

People often get their undies in a chaffing, sweaty bunch whenever their superheroes start getting fiddled with. They see a black Captain America and start stammering and screaming "PC Police" at the top of their lungs until they pass out. But for little black boys and girls, seeing a black Captain America is going to mean the world to them. Since most of the heroes that are "cool" and get the most attention are white...this is huge.

Sam isn't the first black person to take over Caps role, and history hints that he won't be permanently Cap, but it is still significant.


Honestly...I wish he would be. I wish that this new Thor were permanent, and they were to actually significantly shake up their roster. Not for token diversity. Not to make some point. But because there are two problems with this approach. Those same people flipping their shit because Sam is now Captain America often suggest that people just make more black super heroes. Which...fair enough. But you know what? Those heroes don't have the built in audience. Those heroes don't have a legacy. People don't buy those heroes like they do Captain America.

As Chuck Wendig says:
"But you also have to realize that new characters regardless of gender / sexual preference / skin color / nationality / etc. have a hard time reaching new readers right out of the gate. They run the risk of being marginalized heroes. One of the great things about taking iconic pre-existing characters and flipping them around is that it says, hey, these top-shelf characters aren’t just restricted to one segment of the population (i.e. the Straight White Dude contingent)."
Storm is only just now getting a solo series (as far as I know). And she's been around for nearly 40 years. But she's always been a part of a team. The X-Men title has only recently rolled its roster around to feature an all female team. You don't see books lead by women or minorities stick around for nearly as long as you see Spider-Man--who had several other series featuring him besides Amazing Spider-Man, which made it to issue 700(!!!) before rolling back over to a number one issue.

But, Chuck also cautions: [Only adding diversity by creating new heroes] runs the risk of sounding like, “Yeah, sure, you can have your super-ladies and whatever, just keep them over there. Go play in your own sandbox. This one is ours.”

Making one of the main, powerhouse heroes at Marvel or DC black or a woman or gay or Islamic or transgender is a friggin' game changer, y'all.

But there's another problem to Marvel's diversity initiative: eventually the status quo will be restored.

Superman has died a few times. The first time it was a big deal, but no one really cares anymore. With alternate realities and deus ex machinas out the wazoo, it's only a matter of time before the characters come back. Johnny Storm has done it once, Jean Gray has basically become Kenny from South Park, and Captain America has died once before, too. But they always come back.

Occasionally, super heroes find themselves unable to fight, and they get someone close to them to carry on their name. The thing is: these heroes eventually come back: see Captain America's 800 different versions of this story as an example. Almost never are permanent changes made to a super hero. Little costume changes, maybe, but almost never is the original super hero killed off.

Sometimes the replacement spins off into their own persona--like War Machine--but the original hero almost always come back.

Captain Marvel was able to make the switch from the male alien Mar-Vell to the semi-human female Carol Danvers because Captain Marvel wasn't a huge name. He didn't have the legacy that Thor or Batman or Superman does. The Shield (the proto-Captain America) is able to have a gender-flipped reboot because its a small-time super hero comic.

(c) Archie Comics Publications, Inc.
And that's a problem. Because as admirable as making Captain America black is, it doesn't matter quite as much when we reestablish that straight, white dude is the default setting by hitting the reset button after a year or two.

So...I honestly hope these changes are permanent, even if they won't be. Because if Cap is permanently black, if Thor is permanently a woman, then boys and girls of all races and creeds are going to see that and be reminded that they DO matter, that comics ARE for them as well. And I think that will lead to more PoC and female writers, which both Marvel and DC desperately need.

A photo of Vishavjit Singh (Credit: Fiona Aboud)
This is a complicated issue, with lots of implications, but its worth the struggle. Because its the right thing to do.

___________________________

For a more critical look at Marvel's decisions, I urge you to check out this excellent post on Nerds of Color (link from N.K. Jemisin's Twitter).

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Dear White People: Are Y'all As Excited About This As I Am?


I've been excited about this movie since the concept trailer. The fact that its getting a theatrical release now? Hell to the yes, y'all. Seriously. I will watch the shit out of this movie.

Monday, July 21, 2014

2013 Comic-Con Follow Up


Comic-Con is coming up soon. Every year ('11, '12, '13) I write about news from Comic-Con. Usually, I start with a recap/follow-up of stuff from the previous Comic-Con, and then move on to my reactions to the new announcements. However, last year's post got ri-goddamned-diculously long, so I decided to split it into at least two posts: the follow up, and the new reactions.

With that said, let's get started.

Twixt
Way back in 2011 I wrote about Francis For Coppola working on a new movie. It was announced at the same time as Ridley Scott's movie, and it was interesting to see two famous directors working on movies announced at Comic-Con. It came out without really any buzz. In fact, I didn't know it had come out until last year.

Well, it was finally added to Netflix and I watched it. And...yowza. It earned its terrible Rotten Tomatoes rating. The thing is, though? I liked it. Not in the "it's a good movie" sense. In the "this movie is so ridiculous, what is even the hell?" sense. As I said previously, it looks like Francis Ford Coppola just discovered how to use green screen. Val Kilmer plays a drunk, but I think he might actually have been drunk. Bruce Dern was amazing. I think they had to use so much green screen because Dern had already eaten all of the scenery. It was amazing, just not in the way they wanted it to be.

Uglies 
Still basically no news. My reaction stands.

Jurassic Park 4 - aka "Jurassic World"
They have finally decided to kick this movie into high gear it seems. I don't have a lot to say. I've read up on it a little, but the most interesting news so far is that Chris Pratt is starring in it. Since Chris Pratt is on the road to ruling the world (The Lego Movie, Guardians of the Galaxy, etc.), I'm going to say I'm intrigued--because who doesn't love Andy Dwyer?--but not, like, frothing to see this or anything. Possibly more to be announced at Comic-Con.

The Hobbit 2: Please God Make It Stop
I know I said the first one felt a bit bloated, but that I still enjoyed it. I don't know what changed about this one, but I hated hated HATED this one. It started out promising, but every action piece that happened would quickly spiral out of control. Going down the river, bouncing off of orcs like its a goddamned video game, paying homage to Scooby-Doo while outruninng Smaug in the mountain. Just...fuck this movie man. It felt like a waste of time and left me angry. Plus: a second white orc? I thought the whole goddamned point was that there was only one, and that's why he was unique? What the fuck is this bullshit?

Horns
Horns is FINALLY coming out. I'm sure they'll talk about it more at Comic-Con, but I am STOKED for this one. Daniel Radcliffe looks like he's done a great job. I've talked previously about how excited I am about it.

Here's a link to the trailer. It comes out in October. Fuck. Yes.

© EW/Doane Gregory/Red Granite Pictures
Insidious Chapter 2
So...Insidious Chapter 2...well...man...

I loved the first one. Still do. Great, great work with minimal CG, and mostly practical, well paced scares. And it's not that the new one is bad--it's not...per se.

It just feels pointless.

Like, it feels like they could have cut this thing down to 30 minutes and just tacked it on to the end of the original without causing any problems. The majority of the movie is slow and drags because they explain things that YOU ALREADY KNOW, BECAUSE YOU WATCHED THE FIRST ONE. And some characters act extremely stupid given that this film takes place the same night as the previous.

But it's almost worth it to watch Patrick Wilson go ape shit by the end ala The Shining. Seriously, at least worth one watch for that. And there really are some creepy, scary moments. But the story just wasn't there this time, which means that, ultimately, it feels like a waste of time.

You're Next
You're Next is hard to describe without spoiling. It's just one of those movies. So this will sound very unintentionally vague, but: you should go see this movie because it is awesome.

If you liked the original Scream, you will like this movie. It's made in a similar homage/take down style of the home invasion genre, and is absolutely worth it. I remember being frustrated because it looked generic...but it's anything but. And it's worth it  going in not know much of what will happen. As I've said before, give it a shot.

Oldboy
Unfortunately, I still haven't seen either of these. They're both on Netflix, but I just haven't had the time.

Godzilla
I really liked Godzilla. Like, it wasn't great, but it was quite enjoyable. It's one of those movies where the promise exceeds that actual finished product. I hope they make a sequel and learn from their mistakes of this one to make the next one great.

The biggest problem is that the main characters are boring. Extremely, generically, astoundingly boring. And I did not give a shit what happened to them. By contrast, Godzilla was actually given a lot of character development and felt real and fleshed out and interesting, despite him being a CG monster. Weird huh?

Oh, and the movie fucking tricks you into thinking Bryan Cranston is the main character. He is not. And his story, what little there is, was FAAAAAR more interesting than the actual main character.


The Crow
I still have not seen the original movie. And I still know basically nothing about this. So...reaction stands.

Riddick
I hated Riddick. It took everything that was great about Pitch Black, and it shat all over it. It made me angry as all get out. This movie series is a clear demonstration of the creators not know what made the original so great and ruining, not once, but twice now.

As I said before, just go watch Pitch Black again. Save yourself the trouble.

I, Frankenstein
I never saw this. It looked boring. Maybe someday, but I don't really care.

Catching Fire
This movie is so good it almost makes me dislike the first one on sheer principle. If you enjoyed the first one, you will love the second one. It manages to make the Hunger Games aspect feel new, despite it being a sort-of rehash of the first movie. It doles out the emotional beats perfectly. The shaky cam is gone. It is phenomenal.

I'm sure they'll have info about the third one at Comic-Con.

300: Rise of an Empire
I haven't seen this one, but I've heard it is both stupid, and kind of enjoyable because of it. The main dude is a block of wood--so I've hard--but Eva Green is supposed to have stolen the movie in a big way.

Robocop
I didn't see this either. It looked very stupid. I heard its better than it has any right to be, but is still ultimately pointless.

Ender's Game
I didn't see this because Orson Scott Card is hella problematic and I'd prefer to devote my money to movies that don't make my testes shrink up in discomfort.

Captain America: Winter Soldier
I can't say that I enjoyed this one as much as the first one, but comparing the two is also almost impossible. They are so very different films. But I dug the hell out of this movie. Samuel L. Jackson is always awesome, Chris Evans will always be Captain America to me, and while Black Widow was pretty damn awesome, Anthony Mackie's Falcon stole the whole damned show.

I want a Falcon movie baaaaad now.

I will say: tired of seeing giant spaceships crash back to Earth at this point. Can we try something else for a climax now, filmmakers? Please?


Thor: The Dark World
I enjoyed the first Thor. It was pretty decent, but definitely not my favorite of the Marvel films. This one? I did not like. It's not that it was bad, but there was basically no emotional connection for me. Thor was so generic and bland that I didn't give a shit whether he lived or died, succeeded or failed. The only thing keeping me checked in was Loki, who was admittedly very awesome, as always. But ultimately...I didn't care.

X-Men: Days of the Future Past
This was probably my favorite superhero movie this year so far. It was fun, it was unique. It didn't look like everything else. Did I mention it was fun? The superhero movies are starting to get Super Serious and this movie was like, "naw, Wolverine time travelling, guys. Quicksilver goofing around in hyperspeed." Just as good as First Class, and with the added bonus of Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart being awesome together. Bring on the sequel!

Avengers 2:  Age of Ultron
I want to see Falcon. I'm excited to see him in this. The rest is gravy.

I'm sure there will be stuff at Comic-Con.

Guardians of the Galaxy
Chris Pratt has become so endearing that he alone could see me on this movie. But actually, the very first trailer was all I needed to know: a space opera with an off-beat tone where a group of intergalactic failures try to be superheroes? Yes. All the yes.

Now: PLEASE for the love of God, Marvel, feature a cameo from Carol Danvers as either Ms. Marvel or Captain Marvel and PLEASE for the love of God, Marvel, make a Captain/Ms. Marvel movie!



Amazing Spider-Man 2
This movie was both better than the first, and worse. The story was all over the place, but this was the most true to Spider-Man's personality that I've ever seen.

True, there were too many villains, and they REALLY hurt the Green Goblin's character by shoving him into the last act of the film, and true, Jamie Foxx's Electro was basically a black Edward Nygma from Batman Forever, but ultimately, I liked this movie because emotionally it hit most of the right beats, even if the story was pretty awful.

Superman/Batman Movie
Since writing this, they've made it seems almost weekly announcements. I didn't realize they only announced it last year, because it feels like it was announced years ago.

This  comment from last year:
Where's a Flash movie?  Or an Aquaman movie? (And before you scoff, maybe try reading Geoff John's New 52 issues of Aquaman--he's a badass.)  Or, my personal complaint, where the hell is the Wonder Woman movie?
It's funny I said that since this movie is basically "Justice League: The Prequel." I'm not sure if they decided to do this because of the buzz from the general population or what, but now Aquaman has been added (with great casting, as Aquaman is, unquestioningly, a bad ass), Wonder Woman, The Flash, and Cyborg are supposed to make at least cameos.

There's the obvious surprise that Ben Affleck is Batman. There's the more stripped down, comics-friendly suit he has. They cast a former Israeli military member as Wonder Woman. While the movie doesn't look good, it certainly look interesting.

__________________________________

Those are my thoughts on all the movies and stuff I talked about in last year's Comic-Con post. Once Comic-Con is over, I'll post my thoughts and reactions to all the new stuff announced. Since I've become much more into comics in the past year or so, I might post some stuff about those as well, depending on whether they announce anything that interests me.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Bad Ass Song of the Day

Enjoy one of my favorite indie bands cover a guilty pleasure pop song.

You can always count on TeraBrite to inject a little badassery and adrenaline into a song to give it a bit of a kick.


Find more songs on their channel: TeraBrite

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Women Have Always Fought

Cover image from Kameron Hurley.
Do you like essays that buck traditions, fight the power, and are just generally bad ass? Do you like creative metaphors that challenge your experiences and explain things to you that you may have never considered before in an interesting and provocative way?

You will love Kameron Hurley's essay "We Have Always Fought."

BUT if you're also to lazy to run your eyeballs across the words, then she has you covered there, too. She will READ IT TO YOU because she is such a kind and generous person.

Just head on over to Podcastle and give it a listen. You'll be glad you did.

And if you love her essay and think, Gosh, that was great. I really wish I could have that essay and perhaps more of her musings collected into a book-like structure...well, she has you covered there, too, as you can both read her new book of essays for FREE (until August 17th), OR, if you feel so obliged, you can toss her a few dollars and help one of the most interesting daring fantasy writers out there.

So...you know...get to it!

One Week Trying to be an Adult

As I mentioned previously, I'm doing the chaotic dance of health and fitness again. For me, this is a lot of work. I have a hard time sticking to things that I don't consider "vital." Don't get me wrong, I get how important health and fitness is, I'm not an idiot. But adult life will not come crashing down around your ears if you don't go walking every morning. If you neglect to go to your job, things wouldn't work out so well.

But I also recognize that being strapped to a car and being dragged through the streets of adult life, reacting to things but never really taking any initiative, is no way to live either. Hence the working out and eating right.

In the past, I've done this with a handy app called MyFitnessPal. You can enter your height, your current weight, a target weight, how many pounds you want to lose per week, and what type of lifestyle you have (sedentary, moderately active, etc.), and it will calculate how many calories you're allotted per day.

http://www.fitbit.com/apps/myfitnesspal
It's database is pretty decently sized and will cover most of the foods you'll find in your day to day life. You also (I don't know this for sure) will probably be able to find plenty of that Whole 30 stuff or whatever, as I'm sure many of the people entering info into the database are health conscious, too.

When I used MyFitnessPal before, I would try to enter in exercise information based on my own estimates. "Uh...I walked 2 hours at...er...we'll say a moderate pace." "Okay, today I wrestled a hobo for...I'm gonna say...20? minutes?...yeah. Sure."

It wasn't the most accurate measurement system.

So after seeing Mur Lafferty's posts about her own quest for fitness, I saw her mention RunKeeper. I don't know if its the app or my shitty fucking phone, but RunKeeper shit the bed pretty quickly. That led me, however, to Endomondo.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.endomondo.android
Endomondo is awesome. It's very similar to RunKeeper in use, but I like its interface better, and it seems to have better GPS data collection. AND it syncs with MyFitnessPal perfectly. Every time I go for a walk, now, as long as I turn on Endomondo, it will upload the distance, intensity, duration, and calories burned to MyFitnessPal, helping me count my calories a little more accurately.

Something that I did not expect is the data collection is a huge motivator. Before I started using it, I would have said that simply keeping track for the sake of accurate MyFitnessPal usage would have been enough, but seeing how many calories I've burned, how fast I've gone, how far I've gone...it helps me see when I've improved.

That's why I would quit with my fitness before. I would get discouraged, not seeing any sort of progress, and give up. But with this? Even if it doesn't feel like I'm making progress, I can see the data and know I am.



As you can see, it provides numbers to give you an idea of how you're doing. This is awesome and gives you a visualization of your progress. When it feels like you're just spinning your wheels and torturing yourself for no reason, these numbers can give you a serious morality boost.

Fitness isn't the only place I want to improve in my life. I also want to write more--have been trying to write move. I'd like to write a story a week, but I've been happy with a story every two weeks. But I had no hard and fast way to configure that stuff for myself. I had a loose goal of 250 words a day for writing as well, that way if I didn't finish the story, I was at least still making forward progress.

What I really wanted was a MyFitnessPal or an Endomondo for writing.

Of course Apple has one. But since I don't have an Apple phone...well that sort of left me out in the cold.

So, I've managed to create the same effect with three different programs: Story Toolz, Writeometer, and the Progress Bar Timer Chrome extension.

Story Toolz was a sort of last minute find, but I was super glad that I did. It's a website for writers. You register on the website, they send you an activation code, and then you can use their tools, which are pretty neat.


There are story idea generators, random conflict generators, and a readability checker and a cliche buster, neither of which I've used. Mostly, I came for the word count meters. You create a meter, tell it you want to measure word count for your story, enter the target length, and BOOM. Done.

As you enter new words, it also creates a handy line graph and generates stats for you, including when you started, what your average word count per day is, and when it thinks you'll finish the project.


Story Toolz is useful for desktop stuff, but before I found it, I found a mobile app that did almost everything I wanted. The only downside is there's no web interface to go along with it. Like, MyFitnessPal and Endomondo rock because they're super useful apps, sure, but I can also get on the website to do things if I need to. Writeometer is mobile only. There's no command center it reports to, it just runs on your mobile device.

That said, what it does is pretty cool.


Writeometer lets you create projects, and as you can see, there are a variety of things it lets you do. It has a project view that's just an overall view. It also generates reports, lets you log writing sessions, it has a timer if you want to do writing sprints. And it lets you set a daily writing goal, and it will give you reminders so you don't forget to write.


That said, this is the one I utilize least, because it doesn't sync with any online profile, so I have to specifically remember to enter that stuff on my mobile device. And it doesn't sync with other mobile devices, so if I were to add it to another one, the two wouldn't interact. which is unfortunate. This data is all very interesting and useful, but since it's pretty much stranded on my phone or tablet, it's just not as useful as I'd like it to be.

And finally, the Progress Bar Timer Chrome Extension.

This one doesn't have any bells and whistles. It is strictly for three things: a counter, so you can log things (in this case, I use it to log word count, obvs); a timer, essentially an egg timer, but handy if you want to do writing sprints; and a clock, which I've found to be the most useful.

Whenever I want to write a new story, I create two progress bars: one that I'll use to enter my word count each day, and one to count down to my deadline. Seeing the two bars competing helps spur me on when I'm unmotivated.


So, this is my attempt at getting myself on track. Lots of charts and stats and stuff.

I'm sure that very soon, I'll hit the wall that I inevitably hit where this all starts looking pointless and stupid. And then I'm hoping looking at this data will help me remember that I am making progress and that this is a good thing.

And hopefully my wife will yell at me. That helps, too.

_____________________________

The one thing that surprises me is...with all the writers and wanna-be writers out there, how on Earth is there NOT a Endomondo program out there already?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Yay! More Christoph Waltz!

I was listening to a podcast about Django Unchained recently, I thought, You know...Christoph Waltz needs to be in more movies.

And here we are! From the director of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Brazil, The Brothers Grimm, and 12 Monkeys.

And it looks pretty cool.


Hat tip to Bob Chipman for posting about this.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Thoughts on the New Batgirl


I love Batgirl. She and Batman were the first comics I bought when I started getting into comics in 2012. The show Atop the Fourth Wall--which I've mentioned loving before--sparked my interest in them, and it was Linkara's recommendation to seek out Gail Simone comics that really clicked.

I know that every writer's run must end on a comic eventually. It just happens. But the news that Gail Simone was not going to be on Batgirl after issue 34 was heartbreaking. She managed to take a problematic set-up--Barbara being changed back into Batgirl and regaining the ability to walk--and make it not necessarily as shitty for people with disabilities. I mean, ideally, there would be more disabled heroes so they could do shenanigans like this from time to time without effectively gutting their numbers, but Simone handled the issue with panache and class, dealing with the emotional repercussions of something like this.

However, I gotta say that I'm digging the new Batgirl designs. I've complained previously about the doom and gloom of DC Comics lately, and it's great to see them working to bring more light, colors, and fun to their lines. And with a batbook of all things! Two of them, now!

It's disappointing that things played out this way, however, because Simone has stated that she wanted to do a lighter book and was forced to keep the darker, bleaker tone through editorial mandate. After she left the book, though, a new editor was brought on that did want a lighter tone for the book and hired the current new writers.

Boo. :(

So, anyway, the art seems to have the same heart and levity that Gotham Academy does, so I'm definitely not going to drop the book just because Gail Simone isn't on it anymore. That said, I do have thoughts about the new design.


1) I love the new art style. Babs Tarr brings life to the batverse that is sorely needed. The colors are bright, the style is simplistic but dynamic, with a uniqueness that will make it stand out from the other books.

2) I also love the redesign of Barbara's costume toward functionality. For some superheroes, a legit costume might make sense (see: Aquaman, Superman, Green Lantern), but for someone that's just doing vigilante work on the side? And who's NOT a billionaire (ahem, Bruce), it makes sense that she'd just piece her costume together with whatever is around and just tweak it where needed.

And while I'm on the subject of her costume, let's talk about Batgirl's boots.

As always with a new costume, you've got a few people that don't like it, that think it looks weird or whatever, which, fine, that's your prerogative. However, some have criticized her shoes. I actually saw an in depth discussion about how her new shoes were impractical, that they'd hinder her when it came to fighting and running because they're too heavy.

a. Uh? As opposed to the high heels that so many female superheros wear to crime fight? Yeah, those are practical.

b. Also, have you seen Batman's freakin' feet in a comic in pretty much the last 10 years?


Those are some big goddamned boots. Sure, that is from Batman: Arkham Asylum, and video games will tinker with designs to fit whatever game mechanics and story they're trying to tell. What about in the comics?


Again: big ass boots. But again, this is from Batman: Earth One, which is an alternate reality graphic novel about Batman just starting out as a superhero/vigilante.

What about in the current Batman run? Like, from the main comics?


I'm just saying. I'M JUST SAYING.

I don't want to hear any more shenanigans about her impractical shoes when Batman isn't just wearing some clodhoppers that might be a little too heavy, he's wearing goddamned combat boots.

3) While I love the art style, I'm slightly concerned about the tonal shift. Obviously, I'm in favor of Batgirl becoming lighter and more fun. I just worry about how light they'll take it. To go from dealing with her PTSD-like emotional baggage from her years in a wheel chair and her serial killer brother to the style pictured above? It's very abrupt. Great for new readers, but for current fans, it's almost like a smack in the face.

Some shows, like Teen Titans, were great at balancing light-hearted, goofy story lines with darker, more emotionally heavy stories. I just worry, based on the attitude of the new creators, about how far they're going to take it. They've described it as a pretty clean break, which has it's ups, but also some worrying implications.


4) I'm also not thrilled with them leaving Alysia Yeoh behind. DC's first transgender character, and now she's just fading into the background? Lame.

I guess that's not entirely fair. From what I understand, she's still going to be a part of the cast of characters, she's just not moving with Barbara, but with so few transgender characters anyway, it hurts to see them utilizing her less.

5) There's also something bothering me about the premise of the book. The idea is that Barbara's stuff burns up in a fire and she moves to the hip, trendy part of Gotham. The thing is, Gotham is known for being a corrupt, shitty place to live that needs a lot of work. There's a high rate of both crime and poverty. Batman does a lot of good in both Bruce Wayne and Batman. Batman stops the criminals, Bruce Wayne uses his fortune for not just Bat-stuff but also for public welfare programs.

Batgirl, as described by the new creative team, fights crime because she cares about justice. But moving to the trendy part of Gotham seems like exactly the opposite kind of move. Not that rich, trendy areas don't have their problems, but they're richer, and generally much, much, MUCH better off than poorer areas. Sure, the hipster part of Gotham might lead to more fun adventures rather than the grim and gritty stuff of late, but it strikes me as a bit dickish to essentially abandon that part of Gotham because it was crime ridden--wasn't that kind of the point, Barbara?

It also smacks a little of trying to be trendy for trendy's sake. Like, I see the above picture of Batgirl taking a selfie, and I imagine old white guys in board rooms shouting, "What are the kids into nowadays? Selfies, right? Let's have Batgirl take a selfie! We'll have her move to some trendy part of New York--ahem--Gotham. She can hang out with hipsters and eat kale! That's what the young people are into right?"

I mean, I know the book isn't even out yet and I have no idea how it'll read. It's hard to write a criticism for a book that's not out yet. And, again, I am interested in reading the book, and I'm trying to keep an open mind. That's why I saved this particular point for last.
___________________________

All in all, I'm willing to give the new book a chance because I like the basic idea of making the book lighter and more fun, and I love the new art style and redesign. But I hate losing the diversity of the current title, I worry about losing the emotional depth of the stories, and I don't want the quality of the title to diminish for the sake of appealing to a younger crowd.

___________________________
___________________________

UPDATE: In shiny, happy Gail Simone news, she's already said that she's working on something awesome coming soon.

And her latest tweet appears to give some big hints.


The word SECRET.

Used SIX times.

While I haven't read her Secret Six run, I'm definitely interested. I may have to try to pick those up sometimes in the future.

But anyway, the point is YAY FOR GAIL SIMONE KINDA SORTA ANNOUNCING A NEW BOOK!

UPDATE 2 - 9:13 AM: Because Twitter is a strange and random place, my tiny little blog post was seen by one of the authors of the new Batgirl. He responded to a couple of my concerns:


I'm still curious how they're going to avoid Barbara's abandoning the actual needy part of Gotham being a dick move, but like I said before, I'll definitely give the book a shot. I love the art. Once I realized that this was the same person that was also creating/co-writing Gotham Academy (which, duh, how did I not realize that?), I felt a little better.

One further thing I wanted to add: Batgirl taking a selfie is not in and of itself a bad thing. Selfie's are a part of our current culture, and Barbara's a young woman. The contrast of that image to what the books have been so far was just huge--which was almost surely the point.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Time to Healthify (A Redux of a Redux of a Redux)

Photo from Kevin Dooley of Flickr via Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
I am trying to get healthy again.

Again.

I have an on-again/off-again relationship with health and exercise. A few years ago, I was in pretty good shape. I was in college, and my dorm was right next door to the campus gym. Because of this, and spurred on partially because of my roommate, I began getting up every morning and running. After a time, it got to where it was almost a habit. I even started running at home on the weekends that I visited.

I was starting to show some real progress when things when tits up: I lost my roommate, transferred to a dorm across town, and met my wife.

My roommate started going to the gym because he'd just gone through a break up and he was doing the machismo version of cutting off his hair and dying it. I only started going because his skinny ass already made me look back when we hung out, and I was vain enough to not want to fall even further down. When he left, I didn't have that person to keep up with anymore.

The dorm was the worst part, though. My new dorm was across technically an off-campus apartment, which meant I had to drive to campus every day. This meant if I wanted to go to the gym, I couldn't just roll out of bed and run first thing in the morning. I had to get up, get dressed, grab my keys, wallet, cell phone, etc, and then DRIVE to the gym. I already didn't really like running, so that was a lot of obstacles suddenly stopping me from doing an activity I didn't even like. Then, I met the woman that would become my wife, and I spent most of my time with her and forgot about trying to stay fit.

My fitness has plummeted since then.

When I started my job after graduating college, my weight ballooned up from lots of stress--and lots of stress eating. I was downing Cokes and candy bars every day after work, self-medicating for the pressure I was under. My wake up call was when I looked at a recent picture of myself. I noticed how much different I looked compared to what I looked like when my wife met me. The wife and I decided to cut out as much sugar as we could from our diets--cutting down on junk foods, buying low fat and sugar free varieties if we could, and drinking Coke Zero, sugar-free sweetened tea, and water.

Of course, we also started watching our portion size. This was helped in a large part by using MyFitnessPal, a great app for calorie counting.

I actually made solid progress, and got down pretty low--still not my goal weight, but I lost probably 30 pounds. But, just like with running, if I break the pattern, I spiral out of control and can't get myself back on the rails. I got stressed at work again and started buying myself candy bars, saying, "Well, just this one today. I'll start my diet again tomorrow." But tomorrow never came. I had a few friends that got into MyFitnessPal as well, and my wife, and we all kept each other on track. When they all dropped off, it was just me. And my will is shit.

Counting calories isn't a huge deal, but when you're feeling bummed out and alone, it becomes just one more annoyance. "Ugh, I really have to calculate all these helpings and bullshit before I eat? God. Just what I need after a long day of work: fucking math," I'd grumble to myself as I looked up how many calories a serving of food was. And going out to eat became a nightmare of trying to either calculate how much you could eat of a regular order of food without blowing your calorie count, or ordering from the same 3 choices on the low-cal menu that didn't basically hand you a thimble of meat and a leaf of lettuce.

But here I am, doing this health dance again. I've begun counting my calories again. And I've added a new app to my repertoire: RunKeeper. I saw Mur Lafferty mention it on her blog, and, well, I'd like to get back into running.

The strange thing about running: when I was doing it, it sucked, but I got used to the sucking. I never really enjoyed it, but it wasn't the soul-crushing activity that it started out being.

I still remember coming back from college one weekend to visit my friends and family. I had this one friend from high school that was always the sort of person I wanted to be: he was funny, outgoing, tall(er), athletic, and slim. As a chubby guy, I look at skinny people with a sort of slack-jawed wonder. Like, "How do they do that?" It seems like some kind of dark magic to me.

I'd been running for about 3 or 4 months when I came to visit. I asked him if he wanted to join me the next morning. He said sure. The morning came and off we set, earbuds in, music on, just us and the brisk morning air. I had a certain route that I would run every day where I would go to the edge of downtown, and then turn around and head. We made it to the halfway point, and I started to turn to go back when my friend plopped into a big stump in someone's yard.

"What's wrong?" I asked.

"Just--just hold on, okay?" he wheezed.

And that's when I realized I was in better shape than him. It was then that I realized that I had been making progress, that I was improving. And I felt great.

I'm gonna be honest, it was a smug, self-satisfied feeling of knowing I was finally better than him at something. And I don't give a shit if that's bad--it was awesome. But it was also the first real validation about exercising that I'd had. Until that point, it felt like I'd been spinning my wheels but not getting anywhere. I hadn't noticed the tiny progress I'd made, just that I wasn't where I wanted to be.

Obviously, with starting this up again, I'm not going to go looking up old high school friends to run with so I can use them as a yardstick to measure my own health progress. That would be ridiculous and silly. But back then I was rocking it lo-tech--just my body and my cheap-ass mp3 player. Since then, we've got smartphones and apps and gps measuring devices and other awesome tech. So, I'm hoping watching those numbers improve over time will give me the boost I need to keep going when things are tough.

The thing I'm going to try to remember is that health isn't about reaching a goal and then you're done. Health and fitness are more subtle. They're about consistency and upkeep. But it can also be forgiving. If you mess up, it doesn't start you back over at 0--you've still made the progress you've made. You just have to remember to do better next time.

Wish me luck.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Do You Like Potato Salad?

So, apparently on Kickstarter, someone started a Kickstarter for potato salad. Not any particular kind of potato salad, mind, or with any sort of lofty goal in mind. He's pretty straightforward. "Basically I'm just making potato salad. I haven't decided what kind yet," he says of the initial goal.

The original goal was $10.

But there are some pretty harrowing risks to backing a project like this. "It might not be that good. It's my first potato salad."

So, this dude creates essentially a gag Kickstarter, and the internet--lovers of irony that we are--have awarded him $38,000 as of this writing. Holy Jesus Christ, you guys.

I love the dude's reaction to this, too. He's a baffled as the rest of the world. If you look on the Kickstarter page, there are a few attempts to line out some stretch goals, but you can see the moment when things start to spiral way out of his own control. He jumps from $350 to $1000, then $1200, then he says this:
A BIG STRETCH GOAL:
We're really tearing through these stretch goals. I honestly don't know what is realistic anymore. So, I thought maybe we try to double the current number?
$3000: My kitchen is too small! I will rent out a party hall and invite the whole internet to the potato salad party (only $10 and above will be allowed in the kitchen)! The internet loves potato salad! Let's show them that potato salad loves the internet!!
This is amazing. I mean, I know that we could all be cynical right now and talk about how this $38,000 could have gone to a literary magazine or a charity or something, but...c'mon. This guy just raised nearly $40,000 for potato salad.

Maybe we're all gonna be okay, after all.


*Just in case anyone is getting too curmudgeonly, I'd like to point out that Reading Rainbow has raised over $5 million on Kickstarter, and has moved on to raise another $10 million on some new crowdfunding thing called BackerKit. So, it's not all potato salad, guys. There's books in there, too.

Weird Thoughts on Pokemon (First 151)

Pokemon was huge when I was a kid. I was in the third or fourth grade when I got my first Game Boy--(a blue Game Boy Pocket to match my Pokemon Blue). I played the game so long that night, it hurt to raise my head--like my muscles had hardened into stone in a downward facing position. Because I was a child of my generation, I was also very into the TV show and the trading card game. My friends and I were pretty Pokemon obsessed for a few years. The interest tapered out by middle school, but that kind of hardcore interest leaves a cranial residue.

Despite my love of the franchise, if only for nostalgic purposes at this point, I also love overthinking things. And Pokemon is just weird. For example:

1) It's Essentially Dog-Fighting

I know I'm not the first person to make this point, but it's still something that as a child, you don't notice.

You're still catching wild animals and forcing them to fight until they pass out for you. While technically Pokemon don't die (well...not during the gameplay battles anyway), they do "faint." I guess that's similar to boxing--punch the other guy until he falls down and can't get up again, but at least the boxer enters the sport by choice.

The show attempts to create a set of ethics and morals for trainers to live by, but those lines are sometimes blurry, squiggly, and semi-transparent. There's supposedly a right way and a wrong way to fight--I guess like how boxing is different from just beating the hell out of someone in a street fight? However, there's also no clear distinction (in the show at least) of where the fight ends. When Ash fights Brock, Brock stops Onyx's attack early to keep Pikachu from getting hurt. Later, both Ash and Brock act like Ash is forfeiting when he doesn't in Ash's own words "finish Onyx off." However, Onyx is clearly incapacitated, so what was Brock expecting. Was Ash meant to kill Onyx?

2) You Catch These Creatures


Another strange facet that keeps this from being similar to something like boxing is that you're capturing these creatures. You don't capture boxers and force them to ruin themselves at your request. Whatever happens to them, they chose this path. Pokemon...don't.

In the show, Ash often asks Pikachu if he wants to fight (the only Pokemon that he usually asks this, I'll note), and that's supposed to be the difference. Ash won't usually push his Pokemon to the brink. He cares about them. He asks if they want to fight, he stops the match before they can be badly injured, and he praises his Pokemon win or lose. But still, he is choosing to have them fight in the first place. Any injury they get is still his fault. It's not like they'd seek out other Pokemon to fight willy nilly in the wild--sure they might fight over food or shelter like any other animal, but it wouldn't be the same.

I know that we got our pets because we captured them and tamed them. But it seems weird that Pokemon are captured and forced into fights. There's a fan theory that Pokemon WANT to get captured and fight, that its in their genes, and the only reason they resist capture is to test trainers to see if that trainer is worthy of serving...but that test involves battling the wild Pokemon like a normal trainer battle until they're close to unconsciousness--and if you can poison them, put them to sleep, or otherwise weaken them, all the better--which hurts that whole "secretly wanting to get captured" thing.

And as seen in the video I linked above, Pikachu is clearly afraid of fighting Brock's Onyx because Onyx is huge and scary and could easily hurt Pikachu. Ash has to order Pikachu out there to fight--and Pikachu loses! Gets the shit beaten out of him. It goes so poorly that Ash consider forcing Pikachu to evolve to get the edge on Brock.

3) These are Children!


If you saw a 10 year old child approaching a skunk like they were going to try to capture it, would you stop them? Skunks are armed with the ability to spray an enemy with a concoction that would leave your child smelling pretty putrid, but they'd probably otherwise be fine. But what if that skunk didn't spray a stinky liquid, but instead blasted hundreds of volts of electricity at you. Would let them approach then? Probably not. And yet, that's the world of Pokemon.

In the first episode of the show, Ash is only 10 years old. Children that reach that age are allowed to skip school if they obtain a valid Pokemon Trainer's License, and instead go off into world to try to make a living as a Pokemon Trainer. These kids will now lack significant reading, mathematical, and scientific knowledge. And what are they doing to make money? In the game, you get money for winning trainer battles. So, the world economy is dependent on underground gambling over the fate of supernatural animal fights? School has been completely shirked in favor of this? How does anyone become educated if you can just skip out on boring old school and train and fight wild animals? There are scientists in this world, and doctors, and police officers...are they all failed trainers, or did they stay in school? Are there homeless shelters full of failed Pokemon trainers with no skills to offer the world?

4) This is the Entire World Economy


As I said above, the entire world is party to this hobby. It's not just one country's strange cultural sport--like American Football. This is the entire world. And here's the crazy part: it's not just a hobby.

Literally the entire world economy is based around these creatures. Literally every building or business that you go into is in some way involved in Pokemon.
  • Pokecenter - These are hospitals entirely designed around the specific needs of Pokemon. And although they try to pull some mumbo jumbo about Pokemon all having the same basic DNA, that's still trying to figure out how best to heal an electrical mouse versus the ailments of a gigantic rock monster. And how the fuck do you heal a ghost?
  • Pokemarts - These are the department stores of the Pokemon world. And yet, with the exception of the gigantic Pokemart you find in the big city, you can't buy things like water or food. Instead, you find potions (to heal Pokemon), pokeballs (to catch Pokemon), and other things specifically centered around the care of your Pokemon while you're out on the road. And even if we make the rational assumption that they do sell food and water and other normal supplies, it still doesn't change the fact that every single store in this world is the equivalent of a PetCo.
  • Gyms - Places where you can take your Pokemon to train and battle the Gym Leaders so you can participate in the professional Pokemon fighting league. Every town has one.
  • Even places that aren't necessarily Pokemon focused in concept are in execution: Safaris where you can go to observe and catch Pokemon, casinos where you can win Pokemon, museums dedicated to Pokemon history.
5) The Biology of Pokemon


Let's not forget the crazy scientific advancements these creatures imply. For one thing, not only has a species been discovered that has 151 different variations (going by the supposed fact that they all share the same DNA), but these many of the base versions of these creatures can transform with enough life experience into different variations of their original form. It's not just growing up, where the creatures change a little over time like humans, these are creatures that make gigantic biological leaps in an instant.

It's increasingly impressive when you consider some of the stranger aspects of Pokemon "evolution." For example, some Pokemon have relatively stable base forms and can only transform when being placed around certain elements. There are creatures that are ghosts--as in, they're dead and have come back as spiritual Pokemon. Some of them are animal-like, such as Pikachu, Pidgey, Spearow, but some of them are made from seemingly organic matter, like Geodude (a rock), Bulbasaur (a creature that's part plant), and Ditto, which is just an amorphous blob that just copies other creatures.

It gets even weirder when you realize that some Pokemon, like Clefairy, are supposed to have come from space. Or what about Porygon, a sapient crystal-creature that's supposed to have been created in a lab. Or Voltorb or Magnemite, which are just extraneous electrical/mechanical parts.

And yet all of these are supposed to have the same base DNA? Wat.

6) The Technological Advances


The technology in this world is astounding. First, let's look at the Pokeball, the standard way for capturing and keeping Pokemon.

Let's not overlook the Pokeball, though, a technological wonder. Basically, you have (supposedly) organic matter--Pokemon--being converted into pure energy and stored in a ball that can expand and contract at the push of a button. It can be as large as an apple in the grocery store, or seeingly as small as a large grape. Does this invention work on other creatures? Can normal animals be converted into energy and kept inside as well? Can humans? Or is it only coded to Pokemon DNA? Why wouldn't scientists invent a way to store food and other items this way. It would free up tons of space. If the Pokeball is destroyed while the Pokemon is inside, does the Pokemon return to its matter form, or is the energy just released?

Next, the Pokecenters mentioned previously? In the games at least, they can heal Pokemon in a matter of seconds. Does this technology work on humans as well, or, again, is it only coded to Pokemon DNA? what is it about Pokemon physiology that allows them to be healed so quickly. 

Cloning is also a thing in this world. In the game, you receive a Pokemon fossil (A FOSSIL! AS IN, THESE THINGS ARE ANCIENT!!), and later in the game you clone it, revitalizing a once extinct species. And that's not the only instance of this: Mewtwo is also a cloned (and refined) version of an ancient Pokemon--Mew.

Telekinesis and psychic abilities are also confirmed. Abra can teleport, defying all sorts of physics.

Also: we know there's an afterlife. If ghost Pokemon are a thing, we know something happens (to at least Pokemon) after we die.
__________________________

I could probably think of more, but this was as far as I got in my musings the other day, and this is plenty.

What separates this franchise from a very similar one like Digimon is that Digimon are, by their own admission, just data. These creatures are just sapient programming--impressive on its own right, but much more plausible than the world of Pokemon, where Physics just sits in the corner and sobs.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Another Patriotic Video For this July

A few years ago, I posted my favorite speech given by an American president ever.

You can find that here.

This year, I thought I'd share a different thematically relevant video.

This is Epic Rap Battles of History: George Washington vs. William Wallace.

(Warning for NSFW language)

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Bad Ass Earworm of the Day

I love Atop the Fourth Wall, hosted by the awesome and inspiring Linkara--aka Lewis Lovhaug.

Atop the Fourth Wall just recently celebrated its 300th episode, which lead to this song getting stuck in my head--featured as intro/outro music in his liveshow and of course ending the 300th episode (originally from the 200th episode).

I hope to someday accomplish something that results in me having a bad ass ballad about me as well.


Song by Vincent E.L. - swenglish.nu - who also wrote the Atop the Fourth Wall Theme song--equally bad ass.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Gotham Academy? Okay, I'll Bite

Image from Wikipedia
I have a problem with DC Comics. Despite housing some of my favorite superheroes for years growing up, and being a company that has created three of the most memorable, most ground-in superheroes in history, they continually have problems with race, gender, and just generally bad business practices. Far too many of their comics are headed by straight white guys, the females are often depicted in grossly sexualized ways with their agency slashed to bits, and my goodness if you're a person of color, it's very likely that you'll be portrayed in a racist and depressing manor. Books that try to buck this trend tend to disappear relatively quickly--just ask The Movement.

Furthermore, DC has a problem with repetition. Furthermore, DC has a problem with repetition. Furthermore, DC also has a problem with repetition. Repetition is also a problem that DC has...ahem...sorry...  Which is why I was glum when I first read the news that DC Comics was releasing not one, but 2 new comics series set in Batman's universe.

Let's just recap for a moment. This is how many titles are either straight-up Batman books, or based on characters from Batman's universe.
  1. Batman
  2. Detective Comics
  3. Batman: The Dark Knight*
  4. Batman and...*
  5. Justice League
  6. Batwing*
  7. Nightwing*
  8. Grayson
  9. Batgirl
  10. Batwoman
  11. Catwoman
  12. Red Hood and the Outlaws
  13. Birds of Prey*
  14. Suicide Squad*
  15. The NEW Suicide Squad
  16. Batman '66
  17. Batman: Eternal
  18. Earth 2
  19. Harley Quinn
  20. Batman: Incorporated*
  21. Teen Titans
  22. Justice League: International*
  23. Batman/Superman
  24. Batman Beyond*
  25. Batman Beyond 2.0
  26. Injustice
  27. Batman: Arkham Unhinged
  28. Teen Titans GO!
  29. Talon*
* indicates comic is now cancelled
List data from here and here.

(There are a few others that I considered including, like The Movement, Deathstroke, and The Ravagers that are based on things that are based on Batman's universe, but then it felt like it was going too far out into the boonies; I needed to reel it back in.)

This isn't even counting the number of Superman comics that are currently in publication, which is absurd in its own right. 

Not all of these titles are canon, but a good many of them are. When I learned that they were adding Arkham Mansion and Gotham Academy to this list, I sighed. I'm not against the comics overlapping--that'd be ridiculous, all main DC Comics titles occur in the same universe and continuity. There's no way to avoid it. However...I mean...c'mon guys!

Images from Entertainment Weekly and DC Comics, obviously.
AND YET!

I became super stoked today when I actually clicked through and read the article (first on The Outhouse, then on Entertainment Weekly, and finally on Bleeding Cool).

Arkham Manor looks mostly the same as every other Batman title. It doesn't look bad. On the other hand...it's another Batman title.

BUT BUT BUT Gotham Academy looks awesome.

Images from Entertainment Weekly and DC Comics, obviously.
For one thing, DC Comics is a bit grim on...like...everything. Almost every comic that they release--Batman or no, but especially Batman--is very grim, very dark, very brooding. Lots of angst.

LOOK AT THIS ART! IT'S SO YOUNG, SO LIVELY, SO COLORFUL!

From EW:
Things are a bit less bleak in Gotham Academy, a new monthly teen drama set at Gotham City’s most prestigious prep school. (Bruce Wayne is a benefactor; other familiar characters may pop up in Academy‘s twisted, teenybopping universe.)
I've seen some cynical asses already scoffing. "Ugh, a comic aimed at teenagers? Gross."

I, for one, am stoked about this. It's a comic that's not grim, that's bright, colorful, and fun looking, aimed at younger readers, and it stars TWO GIRLS OF COLOR! How cool is that!?

Don't take my word for it. I talked to the author on Twitter:

I could not be more excited about this. This may be the DC Comic I pick up to replace the hole that cancelling The Movement left in my heart.

Good job, DC!