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Friday, July 25, 2008

Sports Watcher for the Weekend of 7/26-27

All times PDT.

10:30-12 PM: Champions Tour Golf, Senior British Open, third round (ABC). If we're putting up the third round of a golf tournament - of a SENIOR TOUR golf tournament - we are scraping the bottom of the barrel to put up something, ANYTHING.

1:30-3 PM: AVP Volleyball, Men's final from Long Beach (NBC). Yes, we are really scraping the bottom of the barrel.

9-11 PM (both coasts): EliteXC Mixed Martial Arts, Saturday Night Fights (CBS). I'm still waiting to see what the ratings are for Saturday Night Fights Mark II, but hey, there's nothing else on, other than a re-air of UFC 84 on Spike.

10-11 AM: Cycling, Tour de France (CBS). See a bunch of doped-up freaks motor their way to the finish line! Er... on second thought...

10-12 PM: Champions Tour Golf, Senior British Open, final round (ABC). It's your chance to see Greg Norman all over again!

Honorable Mention: 10:30-1:30 PM: MLB Baseball, Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony (ESPN Classic). Goose Gossage and a bunch of people who never played a game.

12-3 PM: Arena Football League, ArenaBowl XXII (ABC). Down in the dumps because there's no football? Get yourself revved up for the new season! (Who says the NFL season is short? I think the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and associated Game is next week, which means the NFL plays from August into February. The NFL shoves football down our throat for half a year and keeps at it the rest of the time! If you go from the HoF to the Draft, we have nine months where we obsess about football!)

In all seriousness, I'm actually going to be watching the Arena Bowl - try and get myself into it.

5-8 PM: MLB Baseball, NY Yankees @ Boston (ESPN). GAA-GAA IT'S THE SOX AND THE YANKEES GAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!11!111!!111!!!!!!111!1!!eleven!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Getting the house in order when the visitors are already here

So it seems we have a few more readers now than we did a week ago, especially with a second LiveJournal linking to us. Yesterday and the day before, Da Blog had nine times more visitors than it did the day before that, so it seems some housekeeping is in order.

First: RSS feeds. The-zaniak has created a LiveJournal feed for Da Blog, and my response is: Um... you do know Blogger comes with its own RSS feed, right? If you have IE 7 or Firefox, you should see an RSS icon light up when you see the page. (I can only speak to IE there; I don't know how it works for Firefox.) Unless I get something else cool from having an LJ feed, it seems a bit unnecessary. This has prompted me to add feed links to the sidebar. (If you wanted to create an LJ feed, you'd have done better to create one for Sandsday. I'd create one myself if I knew how to create an RSS feed from a pre-existing MySQL database.)

I've also posted in the past on the idea of Da Blog as a collection of sub-blogs, and as such I've also added a list of all of Da Blog's labels to the sidebar. They come complete with their own feeds; this post explains how you can form them. Both those new sidebar items are right below the larger blog archive, which makes them, and Da Blog Poll, less visible.

I'm also re-opening and extending by one week one of Da Blog Poll questions, removing the Random Internet Discovery from the list of options and replacing it with the fairly self-explanatory "Explorations into History", which could include such things as my opinion on the presidents. Although I have saved the other results to a personal file, if you are one of the three people that have voted on the poll before, I strongly urge doing so again. If you vote "other" I expect you to specify what you have in mind on this post (where you can also learn more about the options) or this one. This is probably the last time I'm going to re-open this particular poll, which has existed in some form almost since Da Blog was founded. I'm also giving you until the end of August 16 to tell me whether you think I should post every time I put up a new strip. You can vote on any or all of the poll questions. I also encourage you to contribute to the poll on the front page of the web site.

Also, after nearly a year since the Web site was put up, I've finally deleted the long-dormant Da Blog Poll from the days when Blogger didn't have its own poll element.

Finally, I'm offering you the chance to have your name in lights, as long as you won't get paid for it, at least not right away. If you're a movie buff - and not just the "Spiderman" kind, but one with a real grasp of film history - I invite you to join my 100 Greatest Movies Project, my seemingly endless quest to create the definitive list of greatest movies from all the ones that have come before, to sing the praises of the movies that make the list. E-mail me at mwmailsea at yahoo dot com if you're interested and I'll show you a sample write-up and a list of movies that are either on the list or close enough to make it on when I retabulate the list (or at some point in the future when new lists come out). I used the same principle in creating the NFL SuperPower Rankings, and released lists for last year, but it proved to be too much work. If you're an NFL buff, and you're willing to put in the work, you can have it for your own website as long as you credit me with the idea, and I'll link to you on Da Blog.

And if you have any other ideas for what the web site or Da Blog could use, feel free to leave a comment on this post.

UPDATE 7/25: Okay, this is why I have long thought about leaving Blogger, because of unnecessary bullshit. Evidently for the last 24 hours the reposted poll and the two new features were at the top of the sidebar even though I had THOUGHT I had saved their moves. Then when I was told I had changes I hadn't saved, it wouldn't save, and then it would tell me "an error occured" no matter what I did after that. lk asfdasilnbg grlkldoe m,x bjfk dsndihtsgugvwbgjwhidxdyf

A seeming contradiction

If there's one thing you can count on when you go to the library, it's that you will be asked to talk in whispers - that's one of the number one stereotypes about libraries.

But it's also said that it's a good idea to take your little kid to the library.

If you've ever been around little kids, especially those under the age of three, I think you can see the problem.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

This must be what Eric Burns felt after Scott Kurtz gave him such glowing praise and hits.

Wow. Wow.

David Morgan-Mar went beyond just commenting on one of my posts this time, linking to my Darths and Droids review with a thumbs-up on his LiveJournal. (And I didn't even ask for the link!) Between that and Morgan-Mar's various LJ friends, I got 60 hits yesterday and I'm already approaching that mark today, numbers Da Blog has never heard of outside football season.

So a quick welcome to new readers and a polite request to read my various other posts, on webcomics or otherwise. Of course I also invite you to check out my web site, link is on the top of the sidebar.

Random Internet Discovery of the Week

Well, I've decided that until the poll is closed, I'm setting StumbleUpon to check all topics - even though that often leaves me without anything to say - and here's why.

I have my toes dipped in a lot of fields. One thing I've noticed is that there are often groups of sites that all tend to have the same group of regulars. It's fairly rare, though, for those regulars to really cross over into fields that are too different. It's rare for me to encounter someone from a webcomic board on a political board, or a sports board.

One thing that I hope to do with Da Blog is to connect various different groups together and expose them to vastly different viewpoints, and a variety of fandoms. I hope that large, disparate groups can come and cross-pollinate, become exposed to new ideas and experiences, and come out richer for the experience. That's part of the reason why I've conceived of Da Blog as a collection of smaller sub-blogs.

So we begin with a brief history of the Middle East through the people who have conquered it, which reminds me of David Horsey's "Brief History of the Holy Land".

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Because as Woody Paige would say, I am a solutions-oriented guy!

Josh Hamilton had a fantastic performance in the Home Run Derby - but didn't win. As a result, there are now a lot of calls to reform the HRD.

I don't support making home runs from the first two rounds carry over to the final. In this year's Derby, there would have been no reason to keep watching after the first round. Hamilton would have had the title pretty much in the bag already. Nonetheless, it is true that the Derby tends to be anticlimactic. By the time of the supposedly pivotal final, everyone is worn out and barely hits anything.

The Small White Ball blog appears to have a promising solution: carry over first and second round totals to the final, but have second round balls count double and final round balls count triple. Hamilton would have been able to benefit from his first round performance, but the final round still takes on momentous importance.

Thoughts? Criticisms?

No, this isn't because David Morgan-Mar always comments whenever I post about one of his strips.

(From Darths and Droids. Click for full-sized pawns.)

I've talked before about Darths and Droids, and on both those occasions I mentioned that I found it a superior strip to the one that inspired it, DM of the Rings. But I don't think I've done the distinction between the two justice.

You know how sometimes, a company will come along and become the pioneer in some new field, and possibly popularize it to the general public, but a second company will become more famous, expose the true potential of the field, and become virtually synonymous with that field? It's similar to how I described Irregular Webcomic! as a pioneer but not the definitive multi-webcomic. Atari virtually invented the video game console as we know it today, but self-destructed along with the rest of the video game market in the 80s, allowing Nintendo to define video games for my generation. Netscape brought the Internet to the masses but everyone uses Internet Explorer now. Lycos and Yahoo made search engines popular with the general public but only Google managed to turn itself into a verb. Bob and George didn't invent the sprite comic, but did inspire most of the others, including 8-Bit Theater, which truly transcended its origins to create a strong comic in its own right (it is no insult to call 8BT a poor man's Order of the Stick). And so on.

Well, DM of the Rings is the Atari to Darths and Droids' Nintendo, which is odd because it means Darths and Droids is in the opposite role as Irregular Webcomic! DM of the Rings asked, "Wouldn't it be cool if Lord of the Rings were an RPG campaign?" That was really the extent of what it was trying to do. Not only is the DM a railroader, but as much as I hate to say this, the characters make Ctrl+Alt+Del's characterization seem deep. Through the first 70 strips I think we know the names of two of the players, and one of them, Dave, plays Frodo and leaves less than midway through the whole strip's run. But even all of that pales in comparison to DMotR's real problem:

DM of the Rings was a comic about a role-playing game.

Darths and Droids is a comic about Star Wars.

The funny thing is, it's also still about a role-playing game, which is the beauty of it. The conceit of DM of the Rings was that Lord of the Rings still existed in that universe, it's just that, somehow, the DM was the only one in the group to have heard of it. Darths and Droids literally is Star Wars as played by a group of role-players. Whereas DMotR used the Lord of the Rings plot as a backdrop for wacky hijinks and commentary on Things You Experience When Playing Role-Playing Games, Darths and Droids appropriates the Star Wars plot as its own, while also containing its own metaplot involving the gamers playing the characters. Just look at how often the DM of the former is interrupted or talked over by the players, with the result that we don't get to know Gandalf anywhere near enough to know why the players hate him so. If the LOTR trappings were removed from DM of the Rings, it wouldn't be much different, which suggests the LOTR setting is little more than a gimmick. It'd be hard to imagine Darths and Droids without the Star Wars trappings.

As DM of the Rings became popular, and flaring up again closer to the end, people flooded Shamus Young's inbox with calls for him to skewer other popular movie or book franchises. As it was winding down, Young wondered why, with how popular DMotR was, no one else had decided to marry movies and RPGs in a biting satire. One of his fans suggested that the reason why was that it was rare for the kind of person who wanted to spoof popular culture to coincide with the kind of person willing to put in massive amounts of effort into creating a webcomic.

That discussion prompted Morgan-Mar to create Darths and Droids, and now that we've seen it, I can't help but wonder if the real reason was twofold. First, because DMotR was more about role-playing games than about Lord of the Rings per se, there wasn't much left to skewer; DMotR had done it all. Second, DMotR made the concept look juvenile, and a potential sure sign of a sub-par webcomic. If the person willing to "spend time and effort making a high-quality webcomic" rarely coincided with the person wanting to spoof Star Wars, it was because a comic spoofing Star Wars not only looked like it was hardly going to be high quality, it exposed that person to potential legal threats. After all, webcomicdom is a haven of geekdom.

Darths and Droids starts out remarkably like DM of the Rings, with complaining players trying to figure out the GM's dense plot. The major difference, as becomes apparent early on, is that the game world is largely made up by the players on the fly, with the GM constantly having to revise and make contingency plans to fit in everything the players try to do, rather than force them to do what he intended as the DMotR DM would. But a difference just as profound but not nearly as played up is that (unlike in DMotR) there is a difference between the players themselves. Jim is the wacky, aggressive, offensive one, while Ben is the smart, calm, collected straight man who has to deal with Jim's wackiness, which often involves coming up with more sensible explanations for Jim's actions. Still, the two of them together aren't much different from the players in DM of the Rings, constantly nitpicking the science (Obi-Wan/Ben), going into foolhardy charges (Qui-Gon/Jim), and thinking up ways to outsmart the GM (both, but especially Obi-Wan).

Things change virtually the instant Sally is introduced and plugged into the role of Jar-Jar Binks. The Comic Irregulars have explained that one of their chief goals was to make Jar-Jar likable, and well, you'd certainly never tell a 9-year-old she needs to be blown out the airlock. More to the point, Sally brings a perspective not only on this game, but on all of roleplaying, that was sorely absent from DM of the Rings. Sally is being brought into the game solely to keep her amused while Ben is ostensibly babysitting her. In most of her early appearances, the GM and the players spend a good amount of their time easing her into the game. Eventually she gets into the hang of the game more, but never loses her childlike innocence.

But in a development of more importance to the strip itself, Sally has the imagination of a 9-year-old, and so allows the Comic Irregulars a place to attribute all the more outre and ridiculous - in short, Lucased up - elements of the Star Wars movies, with the additional justification that the players and GM don't want to make her cry, so they run with her ridiculousness. Jar-Jar? Sally. An elected 14-year-old queen? Sally. An underwater path straight through the core of Naboo? Sally. I can't help but wonder if Sally will stick around for the rest of the prequel trilogy, disappear for A New Hope and Empire, and somehow get shoehorned into Return of the Jedi to bring us the Ewoks.

I talked before about the introduction of Darths and Droids' other non-traditional player, Annie, but I want to reiterate the broader importance of her playing Anakin. Darths and Droids has had, at least since Sally's introduction, some form of master plot (the Comic Irregulars integrate the players' quest for the "Lost Orb of Phantastacoria" so seamlessly with the movie's plot you find it hard to believe they just made it up if you're not familiar with the movie) and subplots (Jim is convinced that Sio Bibble is a traitor in the making, mostly because of his goatee, so naturally he probably finds Senator Palpatine completely trustworthy), not to mention relationships with and between the players, all of which is completely absent from DM of the Rings and the latter of which is impossible without Darths and Droids' differentiated, rich characterization. But Anakin's development not only looks to have a profound impact within the game world, it could have profound impact with the players as well, as the GM and the players try to figure out what to do with a player who's hijacking the game for her own tragic story.

Darths and Droids has a bunch of elements that DM of the Rings does not. A tolerant GM (perhaps excessively so). A GM and NPCs that aren't overshadowed by the players. Differences between the characters that go beyond "are you sure Legolas isn't a hot chick?" A grand, overarching, real plot. Subplots upon subplots. Real integration within its milieu. Sally. Annie. In short, Darths and Droids has taken the interesting concept Shamus Young thought of, and ran with it as far as they could make it go, creating a pretty darn interesting webcomic in the process. No surprise, then, that it's attracted a collection of devoted fans, no small portion of which is probably crossover audience from Irregular Webcomic!, with most of the rest coming over from DM of the Rings. But especially as it goes on, I wouldn't be surprised to see a large contingent of fans with connections to neither strip, mostly from Star Wars fandom, who can't help but wonder what Annie does to Anakin, how the players put up with that, what the players end up doing as they are forced to switch characters between movies, and so on and so forth.

And who knows? Maybe it'll even spawn a horde of imitators.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Update on the Random Internet Discovery

Well, I'm running a new Da Blog Poll alongside the other current one, which I will refresh presently. This one asks if I should select between all the StumbleUpon topics, pick only the ones I like, or poll you for the ones you like. (The latter may end up being hosted on the Web site. There are 78 topics?

The poll will run through next week's RID. I'll think of something else to get us through this week's RID. And I may have to use that something else to get through all subsequent RIDs as well.

My webcomic write-up for tomorrow is finished, so I can spend tomorrow either recreating my Truth Court announcement or working on next week's webcomic write-up. Who says I don't have a job?