Saturday, March 25, 2006

Trapped in the Closet

This thread has been edited for the purpose of making it easier for people to find the information that they're actually looking for.

In other news, I've declared war on the front-page management over at That's Just Not Right, because the front page hasn't been updated in over a month. The war would be ongoing, but unfortunately a cease-fire was ordered by said management, since they can lock down threads at their leisure. In the meantime, though, I'm kicking around some ideas for layout and timing for release. Notes are as follow, and are a substitution to my original statement that the front page needs either a superstar or boobs in order to get people to look at it again.

This is my call for the head of John the Baptist, or whomever happens to be responsible for running the site into the fucking ground:

I like the way The Escapist releases once a week, and then tacks on another couple of articles for good measure, if they feel like it. The articles are terribly informative, and the site doesn't get bogged down with trying to report ultra-current news. Current news doesn't work with a weekly publication, because people who are interested in that news have already read it somewhere else. So the site is pretty much entirely editorial (much to the dismay of Trip Hawkins). I also love the design of the front page at The Escapist, given that it fits perfectly into a 1024 by 768 browser window. I don't necessarily care for their navigation system on the bottom-right corner, but it's standardized throughout the site, which probably a good thing.

And it's got ads. Advertising revenue is necessary to any major endeavor that involves pushing massive amounts of bandwidth. However, because of the nature of the site and its attempt to be similar to an actual magazine, you flip through ads in much the same manner that you would in a paper magazine. Flip the page, "Oh, look, there's an ad for Ford Racing," and you move on after you briefly look at it. It's obtrusive, and yet it's not, and it's so slick that you actually look at it for a second, as opposed to those Google ads, or banners, or anything like that. This is one of those cases where advertising on the internet works.

So I think, and not strictly because of The Escapist, but more because of logistics and overall look, that TJNR should release weekly, setting deadlines of two to three days beforehand so that someone (or multiple people) can handle layout and graphics. I think that Movable Type is crap, and it needs to die, as far as that site is concerned. The downside to layout is the amount of front-end that it needs, which reminds me of updating and then archiving my blog manually, back when I was running it through AOL. Of course, that I was on dialup, trying to update a blog that had an index file that routinely exceeded 100 kilobytes was half of my problem (that the layout was totally unoriginal was the other half). Yes, a weekly release effectively kills any notion of doing movie or DVD reviews, but everybody does that. Nobody wants more reviews, because reviews suck. Actual, genuine criticism is far more interesting.

So we're talking deadlines, which I don't think most people are probably terribly happy about the notion of. I think that a lot of people are probably thinking, "Well, we aren't getting paid, so why should we be subject to deadlines?" Well, when you consider trying to do a layout that flows like a magazine or a newspaper, you can't just have people posting to it all the time. The layout person has to look at things and flow them all together, and the most recent article doesn't necessarily end up in the front or in the back. Essentially, you're looking at a whole editorial staff and layout crew, let alone trying to figure out what program to use to put it all together.

A few years ago, I considered the notion that someday websites, as such, would be done in PDF format, since it's universal and grants you total control over the look of the page, regardless of what type of computer it's being viewed on. At the time I said it probably wouldn't happen because of a lack of widespread broadband access, but now it's more feasible. I'm not saying that TJNR should do that, but it's a means by which the site can actually look like something other than a giant clusterfuck of design, which has less pizazz than the movie My Dinner With André. So, maybe the deadline for stories should be a week or so prior to publication.

And then it needs direction. It's my thinking that a lack of assignments was partly to blame for the stagnation and ultimate demise of TJNR's front page. I mean, I hate writing. I hate coming up with topics, and tend to only do so when I've got a point to make, which is a rarity, as you may note from my less-than-daily updates to this particular site. There are a lot of writers who can't be told, "Write about something cool," as was the case under current TJNR front-page management, and then a few days later come back with something. Furthermore, a real sense of direction would allow a general message for the issue, such as politics, movies, television, or even less specific topics like apathy, regret, crazy people, et cetera. Give the writer 24 hours to come up with a topic, then if he comes back without one, give one to him.

So what do writers get out of posting for the front page? Just a link to their blog, myspace account, or whatever. It's not much, but it used to get me a lot of hits back when Justin was running the site and it was clocking an obscene number of hits per day. Today, it gets only three times as many hits per day as this blog, and that ain't much. However, if the front page is popular, you get popular, at least as far as the electronic masturbation that is a hit-counter is concerned. If you're not writing for the front-page on a regular basis (or contributing an inordinately large number of hits to the site), your link is gone. So, all of the fucking patronage and indulgence links (*cough* Kia *cough*) need to be removed.

Anyway, to sum up, it needs to totally get away from everything that it currently is. It needs eye-candy, it needs a schedule, it needs content, and it needs a coherent layout. Most of all, though, it needs someone who's willing to be in charge of things and get resources together, which we clearly don't have right now. If we did, then we'd be trying things and we'd be updating the front page with the glut of articles that have been stagnating for weeks and weeks.

It is a goddamn shame to see that site go from being as popular as it was into being the fucking joke that it is.


Can I just say that R. Kelly's Trapped in the Closet might be the funniest (albeit probably unintentionally) thing I've heard in my entire life? Here, if you're on broadband, go watch Part 5 of Trapped in the Closet. It's totally retarded, and R. Kelly should never be allowed to write a one-man hip-hop opera ever again. Actually, R. Kelly should probably just disappear anyway.

Anyway, with that out of the way, I read a very interesting quote from the developers' rant at the Game Developers' Conference, which is like E3, but without the booth babes, which I hear aren't going to be at E3 this year, anyway. Chris Crawford, one of the curmudgeons of the gaming industry (most notable for desigining 1986's Balance of Power) and the guy who started the GDC, had this to say about the current state of the industry:

Chris Crawford:
I’m a bit nervous here. I don’t have a rant to give you here. A rant presumes that there’s something to rant about, that’s there’s something wrong that needs to be righted. I have to tell ya, there’s nothing better that can be done because the games industry is d.e.a.d.

Now when I say dead, I don’t mean totally dead, I mean brain dead. The product is going out the door, money is coming in. But what’s up here? Nothing. There’s no creativity. There’s no creative life in this industry at all. It’s just a dead creature. We put food in, shit comes out.

So it’s kinda like… EA really isn’t very diff from Proctor and Gamble. Put something in a box, sell the box. Write new and improved on it. Sell the box. That’s all they ever do. This panel is like a group of doctors standing around the bed of a brain-dead patient all talking about what we can do to restore her to life and vivacity, and I’m here to say there’s just green goo inside the skull.

So I can only offer two thoughts. The most charitable thing is.. rest in peace. The second I’ll just mention that I’m going down the corridor to the maternity room where there’s an infant that has a better future than the games business and it’s called interactive storytelling.
I wouldn't have quoted it if I didn't happen to agree with him, particularly on the Proctor and Gamble analogy. I've been saying for a while now that the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3 are, "Same shit, better graphics," and that's the only functional difference between the current generation and the next. At least Nintendo's got the stones to try something new with a console, despite the fact that it won't be as powerful, but then again, it also won't cost as much as either the Xbox 360 or the Playstation 3, which leads me to hope for a VHS-style win over the superior hardware of Beta. I'm analogizing again, so you'll have to excuse me.

AIM: therbmcc71

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Everybody Wants to Rule the World

Yeah, yesterday was election day here in Illinois, and I pulled a Democratic ballot. Let me tell you, I really thought it would be more exciting than it was, because nobody ran for half of the county posts. Granted, you're throwing your money away if you're running as a Democrat in the suburbs (fucking rich Republican fat bastard stronghold, this area), but you'd think they'd at least try to get someone's name on the ballot for the November election. You know, just to make it look as though they were trying to provide a healthy sense of competition. As it stands, I made liberal (pun intended) use of the Write-In section, voting for various friends for local positions and myself for county treasurer. Sadly, I didn't even get two percent of the vote.

So, while I was looking at the ballot, I got down to the bottom-right section of the front page, before I turned it over and voted against a silly tax that would pay for widening roads, which would only end up encouraging more of the aforementioned Republican bastards to move out here, and I actually giggled at what I saw. I giggled in a voting booth, and continued to do so as I filled in the little circle. Here's the result from the election coverage:

ELIZABETH PENESIS. . . . . . . . 2,647 99.66
WRITE-IN. . . . . . . . . . . 9 .34

I shit you not, this is real. The vast majority of Kendall County Democrats love Penesis!

It's official: Democrats are actually embracing being a laughing stock in Kendall County now.

Now, if this lady is married, I'd recommend going back to her maiden name, and if she's not married, I'd recommend she find a man, fast. Because let's pretend for a moment that she tried running for the United States Congress against (in this district) Speaker of the House Denny Hastert: Any reporter covering the race would start giggling every time he tried to talk about the significance of the Hastert-Penesis race. Let's cut to a Democratic supporter: "I think we need Penesis on Capitol Hill!" As it stands, I think I voted to send Penesis downstate, but I really don't know what the Central Committee does. However, I definitely think the Democrats need Penesis in the national spotlight.

That's right, any time I need a quick dash of political humor, we're just going to report from the front lines of the Penesis campaign, because – even after typing it as many times as I have – it still makes me giggle.

AIM: therbmcc71

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Hot in the City

So I bought Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas last night, and I managed to somehow make it farther in two hours than I'd previously done in about six. I figure this probably has something to do with the fact that I was using an Xbox controller instead of a PS2 controller, which many regard as the greatest controller in history, but I still hold that particular honor goes to the Gamecube. Now, if they would have made a Controller-S layout on the old "Fatty" controller (which was universally panned for its enormous size) that shipped with the Xbox for its first year, I'd ... no, I'd still say the Gamecube controller.

Pokemon Trozei is yet another game I bought to tide myself over until the release of Tetris DS. It could be said that these games are entirely too reminiscent of Bejeweled or something along those lines, but you could say the same thing about Bejeweled being reminiscent of Columns, only not, because the pieces are already there. Which reminds me, someone really needs to figure out a way to make Columns even more badass and release it on a current-gen system, because I want to play it again.

Back to San Andreas, though. I'm still trying to get used to the radio station layout, because I channel-surf in that game worse than I do in real life. Unfortunately, it's exactly the opposite of real life because I'm surfing for the commercials, since everything but the songs on the radio in that game are absolutely hysterical, generally in a lewd sort of manner. I won't even get into the horses' names at the off-track betting establishment, but they're terribly creative.

Anyway, this is just a little throwaway post to let everyone know that I'm still alive and have not traded in all of my worldly interests for five pieces of silver and some comic books, and I'll be back at some point to write up something that's actually interesting. Maybe not to you, but interesting to me.

By the way, if you're going to be in the Batavia area on St. Patrick's Day, swing by the Venice Tavern around nine o'clock and close the joint with me, as Small Shiny Things is going to be playing. There's a whopping three-dollar cover, but major holidays with Kevin and the boys are always a good time.

AIM: therbmcc71

Monday, March 06, 2006

Time Has Told Me

So, as a little break from my coloring (which I find terribly relaxing), I've been reading the first three issues of the Spider-Woman: Origin mini-series, and I'm having some difficulties parsing some of what I'm reading and keeping it in sync with what I remember from a lot of the characters Bendis decided to bring in.

Generally speaking, issue #1 isn't much of a stretch and pretty well follows my vague recollection of Spider-Woman's early history at Wundagore Mountain and what-not. I was somewhat confused by the fact that Herbert Edgar Wyndham, the High Evolutionary, was 1) an older gentleman, and 2) being referred to as 'general.' Furthermore, where's the Puppet Master? And then there's a notable lack of werewolf Gregor Russoff, father of the one and only Werewolf By Night.

Okay, so in issue #2, we get to see the High Evolutionary outfit, but now we're being told that the High Evolutionary was some bigwig in HYDRA (which I'll not capitalize again, for all of our benefit). And then Jessica Drew's (she's Spider-Woman, dig?) mind gets probed by Mentallo, who I haven't seen used in a comic book in twenty years (although I guess he's been around lately, lord only knows why), and then she gets trained by the Taskmaster. Now, up until this point, the only thing that's been keeping me reading is the fact that I know Bendis isn't going to give me a shitty book, and here he brings in the fucking Taskmaster, and I'm like, "Sold!"

Issue #3 starts with Jessica Drew infiltrating some SHIELD (which I won't explain the acronymical properties of, due to the fact that it's changed at least twice since I've been reading comics) compound, and here's Nick Fury, who has managed to make an appearance in virtually every book Marvel has published in the last eighteen months. If they don't kill him off soon, I'm going to throw him in the heap of over-used and now-uncool characters with Wolverine and Gambit. I mean, the guy has a few funny lines, but I'm just getting tired of him.

Anyway, she gets lost, she gets found, lost, found, and she gets the funny line in the Nick Fury dialogue by the end. Not quite as funny as Spider-Man and Iron Man breaking the fourth wall while talking about Mary-Jane's not-so-broken arm, but still worthy of a chuckle.

Anyway, I just wanted to lodge this little continuity complaint with management, given what I picked up during my reading of the backstories in the Evolutionary War annual-crossover back in 1988. I have no explanation for Bendis' reinterpretation of what I consider to be canon, and therefore am not eligible for a No-Prize. I mean, maybe I just want more Wundagore, because there was a lot of shit going on there while Jessica Drew was in a ten-year coma. You've got the Darkhold, Chthon, goat-men, cow-women, werewolves, the birth of Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch... lots of stuff. Maybe I'm just nitpicking Spider-Woman, because it doesn't exactly jive with something Mark Gruenwald wrote, and he is the patron saint of continuity.

And it's going to be really bad when I see what they've done to Captain America when that DVD-ROM comes out, whenever that might be. The Amazing Spider-Man one has been pushed back to June, but at least the Avengers disc has been pushed up from late-April to the end of this month. I'm going to geek out until the end of the year, at this rate.

AIM: therbmcc71

Friday, March 03, 2006

Banzai Washout

This is what I'm working on right now. I just got a 6 x 8" Wacom tablet for my Mac (works on PC, too), so I'm taking it for a spin in Photoshop Elements in the most appropriate manner possible for myself (caution, dialup users! about 300K worth of stuff here!):

Stripped down to line art:
Color layer:

Current layers combined:

I'm not sticking strictly to the original coloring job because I didn't feel that it was necessary, and you don't learn anything by constantly referring back to the original work. Cable's coat is only green because that's the only color I remembered from the original frame, and I gave him a red ascot just to make him look that much more like Charlton Heston. I figure tomorrow and Saturday I'll finish coloring the rest of the frame, do highlights, lowlights, various other stuff (replacing the dialogue is high on the list), and then write up a tutorial on how to do it.

Anyway, this is terribly fun, and I'm far better at it than I ever was with coloring books, thank you Photoshop.

AIM: therbmcc71