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Saturday, May 16, 2009

On top of everything else, Draft Image Upload is STILL screwed up.

(From Irregular Webcomic! Click for full-sized Swiss chocolate.)

So... if the Joneses are still on their way back from the Underworld...

...but at the same time are rescuing each other from the Nazis...

...what impact will that have if they collide?

More evidence the Irregular Crisis isn't over yet...

I desperately need a real job, so naturally I've put in zero effort towards that for months.

I'm pissed at myself, I'm pissed at the library, and I'm pissed at timing.

I wouldn't ordinarily hate the University District Street Fair. I've strolled through it myself on occasion, taken in sights, seen and tasted interesting things.

But when the vast majority of the decent Wi-Fi spaces near my house are right near the fair, I don't particularly want a big booming concert when I'm trying to do something, and I certainly don't want the library to make it hard for me to work under those circumstances.

(It didn't help that I lost my keys right before I left the house.)

So I'm really pissed that all this conspired toaln dfjhkrqvkaflhalsbwvnfhushwimowbtjwo ybiofvhqepg35nogv2g3qv[ delay posting the strip until not that long before 5.

Tomorrow's strip will be no earlier than noon PT.

A message to ESPN.

I am currently subscribed to this to get Bill Simmons' columns. I'm pretty sure you can replace "Bill Simmons" with any writer for the below until the solution.

When ESPN redesigned their website, they changed things so those RSS feeds, instead of just pointing to the guy's columns, points instead to the guy's search results.

I don't need to sit through a gazillion things that just happen to mention Simmons by name.

So I'm actually considering switching to this.

Two drawbacks:
  • I still have to sit through links to the "BS Report" podcasts, which I'm not interested in. I'm not a fan of podcasts in general, but that's a subject for another post. Podcasts are always boring as hell for some reason, probably in part because everyone's voices are so ordinary.
  • After making fun of Twitter in his last mailbag, Simmons has taken to Twitter like a sponge, meaning I probably have to sit through a gazillion updates every single day, way more than I'm getting from ESPN now. (This is my one major ambivalency about Twitter, which I'll go into more detail on later this month.) But at least those updates actually come from Simmons himself instead of being "Hey, Bill Simmons said this in a column you've already read..." if even that.
  • Oh, one other thing. For whatever reason, links don't work in Twitter RSS feeds.

Friday, May 15, 2009

By my standards, I think I'm a month late with this.

In February, at the end of my "Webcomics' Identity Crisis" series, I said this about The Floating Lightbulb:
I'm probably going to do a review of the Floating Lightbulb itself one day, and when I do I'm probably going to say that Bengo is a more cerebral John Solomon. Bengo doesn't hate all webcomics - though the Floating Lightbulb doesn't do much in the way of actual reviews at all - but he certainly seems to hate most of the personages in mainstream webcomics. In his eyes, most big-time webcomics creators are self-promoting jerks who probably cheated to get to the top and as such are bad role models, and most webcomic bloggers are ego-strokers, often with rampant conflicts of interest, who shill the same comics over and over again. Not every webcomic blog gets this charge, not even biggies Tangents and Websnark; mostly the vitriol goes to Gary "Fleen" Tyrell and [Xaviar] Xerexes, proprietor of Comixtalk.
Shortly thereafter, Bengo wrote a post explaining, among other things, that he didn't hate all mainstream webcomics, he just reserved his vitriol for those grouped under the names of Dumbrella and Halfpixel. And even though he never mentioned me by name and I'm still not sure if he even knows of Da Blog's existence, I started to panic and planned to start this post with a comedown, stating that maybe I'd overstated his hatred.

Well, earlier this week he banged out a post that seemed to show where I might have gotten the idea he was a curmudgeon. Apparently a large number of webcomic creators are engaging in an e-e-evil plot to mislead Aspiring Webcomickers Everywhere in order to maintain their own standing and keep webcomics mired in a cesspool of mediocrity. Oh yes, what they disseminate is nothing but a mess of LIES! But they won't succeed, oh no, even now their kingdoms are falling, and soon the curtain will fall away and THE TRUTH SHALL BE REVEALED! They can't keep it down forever! Ha ha ha, ha ha ha, aha ha ha ha ha hahahahaha!!!!!!!!!!!!

(This isn't the first time I've sat through Bengo putting his tinfoil hat on, either. He seems to think that people who think Scott Kurtz is "nice" are victims of an elaborate charade and front so dead-on and uncanny he should be an actor, not a webcartoonist! Because it can't possibly be that Kurtz is just a complex, contradictory - GASP! - human being who feels nice in some circumstances and egotistical in others! Not that Kurtz being an arrogant jerk who thinks he's Scott McCloud's heir as Representative of All Webcomicdom but always ends up putting his foot in his mouth in doing so is exactly a secret...)

I don't want to give the impression I find TFL the conspiratorial ramblings of a madman. In fact, TFL is one of the better, or at least more interesting, blogs you'll find when it comes to advice for aspiring webcomickers. About a year ago, Bengo started trying to research webcomics in preparation of a new project he hoped to do with his wife Pug. Distressed at the paucity and contradictory nature of information, he started the Psychedelic Treehouse website as a storehouse of his findings, and started keeping a running log in TFL. Bengo nonetheless plowed on and ultimately contributed to two webcomics and a side project, while continuing to look for information on what to expect on the financial front. He became so distressed at the information in the HalfPixel group's "How to Make Webcomics" that after a bad interview with Dave "Sheldon" Kellett and Brad "Evil Inc." Guigar, he wrote a scathing post casting severe doubt on the book's business model that made him a lifelong enemy in Kurtz and is largely singlehandedly responsible for much of TFL's popularity, such as it is (which is to say "more than that of Da Blog").

The metaphor implied by the title is probably the most succinct summary of most of TFL's contents. Well, kind of. Sort of. Actually, according to an informal overview I did, only a little more than half Bengo's posts were classified as "ideas webcomickers can use, perhaps to increase their revenue or help their art, sometimes taking their cue from things existing webcomickers are doing. Often this takes the form of cool stuff on the Internet people can use. Other times it's highfalutin' ideas, concepts and classifications that would make Scott McCloud and Eric Burns(-White) blush." The rest, for the most part, is split fairly evenly between actual webcomic reviews, mere observations about the webcomic community, or ripping into people Bengo hates.

All of those three categories, to some extent or another, furthers the same goal as the first: educating aspiring webcomickers. Bengo reviews webcomics so we can learn from them, his recent posts on webcomic traffic trends were made with an eye to trying to find out why so aspiring webcomickers wouldn't fall into the same traps, and he doesn't want anyone looking to Scott Kurtz as a role model or have their business plan ruined by "How to Make Webcomics". This isn't just generic stuff you can find anywhere else on the Internet, either. Bengo pretty much assumes you're looking to enter webcomics for the long haul, and make some money from it at the same time, and maybe even join the Tier 1 Pantheon of Popular Webcomics. I can't vouch for the effiacy of any of the advice Bengo gives - I'm afraid I would have to classify his comics as Tier 3 and unreviewable until proven good (or at least potential-filled) - but there's a lot of stuff you won't find anywhere else (by which I mean you won't find any competing or affirming advice) and a few things where Bengo seems to be downright pioneering, daring to go where no one has gone before. Where else are you going to find stuff like this?

All of which means TFL has a rather interesting clientele in that it is written primarily not for the general public at large, but for aspiring webcomickers. What really makes this interesting is that a blog written entirely for aspiring webcomickers would ordinarily go entirely into the advice pool. Bengo writes for a specific subset of that clientele, yet he's also calling out the webcomics community at large for their practices that derail aspiring webcomickers. I think the closest thing to an equivalent I can think of would be Bengo's mortal enemy at Halfpixel at, yet even that site doesn't really go into current events or reviews or that sort of thing, yet despite the tagline of "webcomics news," TFL isn't really a news site either (by which I mean it's not much of a news site at all). (The tagline used to be "Webcomics Eureka", which was a little more accurate if a little redundant with the title and not entirely sensical.)

Now so far, my webcomic blog reviews have been of review sites, so I should probably say a few words about TFL's reviews. Briefly, they tend to focus on obscure webcomics, and somewhat surprisingly for TFL's normal subject matter, they tend to be rather basic, focusing on such things as what the setting is, what the format is, how good it is with mechanics, and what Bengo likes and what he thinks could be improved. They're short, general, and to-the-point, without too much of the rambling or dwelling on specifics of the Burns(-White)/Howard/Solomon/Wick crowd.

The Floating Lightbulb is the closest thing I've yet found to the Order of the Stick of webcomics blogs, in that it's hard for me to find anything (well, much) bad to say about it. If Bengo's insights into webcomics are vindicated - which really only happens when you become popular, as people either deconstruct your arguments or tell people how much you helped them; it's damn near impossible to do what the opposite of vindication is, since you generally don't get popular if you're wrong, and in any case Bengo may be well on his way - TFL (and Psychedelic Treehouse) could become an absolute must-read for anyone looking to jump into webcomics, as well as anyone else examining the field. And the Webcomic Blog List is not only a useful form of webcomic blog promotion, it's a useful resource for anyone looking for webcomic blogs to read, such as someone like me who's looking for more webcomic blogs to review.

The one big elephant in the living room where TFL is concerned is Bengo's sometimes-obsession with Dumbrella, Halfpixel, and their cohorts, which can come off as just trying to drum up attention by picking fights and proclaiming "everything you know is wrong!" (If Bengo decides to respond to this post in any way, I fully expect him to go on another possibly-conspiratorial rant about all the damage Kurtz and Co. do to webcomics just like all his others.) When Bengo isn't ripping into the self-proclaimed "role models" of webcomics, his posts are thought-provoking and insightful. Even when he is they can be enlightening and affirming. Either way, you're guaranteed to get your recommended daily allowance of brain food just about every day.

The Floating Lightbulb is, pending verification of Bengo's advice, most highly recommended. And I'm not just saying that to get on the Webcomic Blog List - TFL's on my RSS reader for good. As I said back in February, I'd bet anything Bengo would rip me and Da Blog to shreds, both for lavishing praise on him and focusing too much on popular webcomics for my own good (and maybe echoing Robert A. Howard's critique on top of that).

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Semi-random thought.

I really don't think "Chris Berman's" Twitter page is really Chris Berman's.

I think it's a form of stealth marketing for some ticket scalping site.

Is there any way we can report this?

My take on the latest abuse photo controversy

Honestly, as Orwellian as it sounds, we don't need to see more abuse photos. I think we can all agree that we did some scary bleep out there and leave it at that. No need to make people angry with the details, just promise we won't do it again.

There's a part of me...

...that's rooting against Rachael Alexandra.

Not because I'm sexist or anything and I don't want fillies to win against the colts.

I can't bear the thought that we possibly maybe could have had a Triple Crown, first Triple Crown in over 30 years, and moreover the once-in-forever possibility of a filly winning the male Triple Crown, only the horse that could have done it ran in the Oaks instead of the Derby. I don't even care why that decision was made.

We could have had something for the media to legitimately blitz over dammit!

NBA Playoffs First Round Ratings

Source: Sports Media Watch. This is an experiment. Asterisks indicate rating not reported by SMW; if there is an asterisk and no network, I couldn't determine whether it was on ESPN or NBATV. I can forgive the lack of NBATV ratings and even the one missing ESPN2 rating. But asterisked ESPN games could get over 2.0 and appear on my year-end roundup! (CLE @ DET Game 3 is most likely to do so and all the others are rather unlikely, and it might not be SMW's fault, but still.)
DET @ CLE Game 1, ABC, 2.2
DET @ CLE Game 2, TNT, 2.4
CLE @ DET Game 3, ESPN, *
CLE @ DET Game 4, ABC, 3.5

CHI @ BOS Game 1, ESPN, 2.0
CHI @ BOS Game 2, TNT, 2.5
BOS @ CHI Game 3, TNT, 2.2
BOS @ CHI Game 4, ABC, 3.3
CHI @ BOS Game 5, TNT, 2.5
BOS @ CHI Game 6, TNT, 3.5
CHI @ BOS Game 7, TNT, 4.4

PHI @ ORL Game 1, TNT, <2.0
PHI @ ORL Game 2, NBATV, *
ORL @ PHI Game 3, ESPN2, *
ORL @ PHI Game 4, TNT, <2.0
PHI @ ORL Game 5, *
ORL @ PHI Game 6, *

MIA @ ATL Game 1, TNT, 2.2
MIA @ ATL Game 2, TNT, <2.0
ATL @ MIA Game 3, TNT, <2.0
ATL @ MIA Game 4, TNT, 1.8
MIA @ ATL Game 5, TNT, <2.0
ATL @ MIA Game 6, *
MIA @ ATL Game 7, ABC, 2.6

UT @ LAL Game 1, ABC, 3.2
UT @ LAL Game 2, TNT, 2.3
LAL @ UT Game 3, TNT, 2.6
LAL @ UT Game 4, ESPN, 2.2
UT @ LAL Game 5, TNT, 2.4 (SMW has this game listed as Game 4)

NO @ DEN Game 1, TNT, 2.0
NO @ DEN Game 2, TNT, 2.0
DEN @ NO Game 3, ESPN, *
DEN @ NO Game 4, *
NO @ DEN Game 5, TNT, 1.9

DAL @ SA Game 1, ESPN, 1.7
DAL @ SA Game 2, TNT, 2.0
SA @ DAL Game 3, NBATV, *
SA @ DAL Game 4, TNT, <2.0
DAL @ SA Game 5, TNT, 2.2

HOU @ POR Game 1, ESPN, 2.1
HOU @ POR Game 2, NBATV, *
POR @ HOU Game 3, ESPN, *
POR @ HOU Game 4, TNT, 2.1
HOU @ POR Game 5, *
POR @ HOU Game 6, TNT, 2.5

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

V's first question after recovering from the shock, assuming the fight doesn't continue: "How in the Lower Planes do you know about soul splices?" Hey, now that the robe's red and eyes're normal again, maybe Redcloak recognizes her as an OOTS member.

(From The Order of the Stick. Click for full-sized end of the line.)

Technically, I still owe you an OOTS post for April, and this doesn't count. But it does give me some ideas for a full-fledged OOTS post, which I was planning to have next week... assuming I can get a post I was planning for this week in by then. Because it's been too long since I reviewed another webcomic blog.

Yes, Blogger-in-Draft is still making it impossible to upload images and forcing me to go back to old Blogger (screwing people who had made Draft their default dashboard and can't go back no matter what they try), why do you ask?
But anyway, since I normally make posts on Big Events and the forums are down as usual, I might as well make some comments here.

First, reflecting back on my original post on the splice, for two reasons. First, Burlew did a good job of keeping us on our toes with the splice. I started out thinking that, despite the power level, V had a good chance of hanging on to it into the next book; then it was revealed that V would lose splices one at a time and I thought that meant it made the most sense for them to all be lost within the current book; then plotlines started getting used up left and right, and things kept happening to V and he never lost a splice to them, and I started thinking there wasn't enough room for two splices to be lost in the relatively small time left in the current book. Then he decided to take on Xykon.

The pattern established with Haer(t)a seemed obvious: use an epic spell that would see the spliced caster appear "in the background" behind Vaarsuvius, then that caster would have their splice lost. While all the plotlines were being wrapped up, V had already used Ganonron's epic spell, so every time something happened that might ordinarily cause a splice break, I figured that meant V had one more teleport in her. And there was enough portent in V's decision to run to Xykon to figure that last teleport had arrived.

It would have been bad enough, in my view, for V to lose Ganonron alone and thus the ability to teleport away from the scene of the crime. I can certainly see the logic in Haer(t)a being the only lone splice lost - to establish that a splice could be lost at any time, to take her spells off the table, that sort of thing. But the fact that Jephton was not able to get off an epic spell doesn't sit well with me, and tells me that either Rich couldn't find a place for a third epic spell (a second "Epic Teleport" doesn't count) or changed his plans at some point after #643 - possibly, given the suddenness of the last two strips, just lost patience with the splice. Certainly I could have seen Ganonron lost but Jephton able to get off an epic spell against Xykon before he was lost - it seems Rich couldn't figure out what to do that would be big enough to give that shadow shot. (Some forumites suggested Jephton be given a completely ineffectual joke spell, though, so even that's not a show-stopper.)

Second, after the previous strip I figured that since Xykon had just fired off two Energy Drains and might have more in store, severely weakening the splices (seriously, if Jephton lost all his epic spell slots after the first, he might well be lower level than V after the second) the prudent thing for V to do was get out while the getting was good. Therefore, I figured something would happen to prevent V from leaving. Survey says... not really. I can see going for the Bixby's Hand after the energy drains, but staying in the game after Xykon neutralizes even that? With your next move being a simple Disintegrate?

It actually makes an odd level of sense, but in a way I doubt Rich intended. While it's possible that either V, Rich, or both weren't thinking the circumstances through (less likely than you'd think in the former's case with two more clear-thinking souls along for the ride with the most to lose), I prefer to think that this is V's pride and hubris rearing its ugly head again. V really does believe "my power... EXCEEDS yours!" and he can still defeat Xykon with brute force even after evidence comes up to the contrary, only realizing the prudency of retreat once it's too late. (That pre-current-book V's style of pounding on a problem until it falls fits the situation is an idea worth considering as well.)

I'm holding off on most of my future predictions until next week, and even then I'll want to hold off on some because I have a between-books state-of planned for when the current book ends. But for now I have only this: I think we're more than set up for the remainder of the book between any Team Evil-Vaarsuvius discussions and any discussions surrounding Roy's resurrection. We're already about halfway through the "20-strip cooldown period" I've identified at the end of each book. I can easily see three strips or more to wrap up the battle and have some catching up to do and tie up loose ends here, plus at least three strips to cover Roy's resurrection, throw in the usual splash page at the end - that's seven right there, out of about ten - and since we haven't seen any of the Linear Guild in the book so far, if they're to have any real substansive role in the next book - and it's becoming a fairly firm consensus they will, for reasons relating to Elan's and Nale's family - or just appear in this one, they better show up soon.

And if there's any importance to Roy meeting V's "subcontractors", could it be the knowledge that V could have lost them and remain trapped in Azure City, life status uncertain?

Blog of Webcomics' Identity Crisis: The End of the Second Comic Book Distribution System?

Once upon a time, you went to the newsstand to pick up the newspaper, some highbrow and lowbrow magazines, and the favorite comic books. That was the first comic book distribution system. It was marked by a wide variety of genres and publishers until about the 1960s.

Then comic book stores and the direct market sprung up. That was the second system, and it was marked by the dominance of superheroes, DC and Marvel superheroes especially.

Now DC and Marvel are making considerable gobs of money outside comic books while Diamond's anti-small-publisher practices portend a potential mass move to the Internet and comics are starting to bang on the door of bookstores.

So if DC and Marvel eventually decide to scale back and rethink the way they do comic books, Sean Kleefeld thinks that will be the death of Diamond.

I'm not sure what will replace it or if anything other than webcomics replaces it, or what the third system will look like, either in terms of the distribution mechanism, the selection of genres, or the diversity of publishers. But it'll be very different from the second system.

(The model of the monthly comic is really rooted in the first system. If DC and Marvel decide to move to mostly a graphic novel format, or move entirely to the web, I think you'll see those "pamphlets" become basically unheard of.)

Random Internet Discovery of the Week

"The best thing I can think of to put on dirty car windshields are mash-ups of more talented artists' work!"

Monday, May 11, 2009

You may try, but until you get attention for this you're not the fifth major.

Day 35 or 36 on the BottomLine Watch. It keeps on turning...

We all know that, among other ways Augusta National is intensely protective of its Masters broadcasts, it forces CBS and now ESPN to use a 1995-ish CBS graphics package for the Masters.

But either NBC has a change to its graphics in the works and its production of the Golf Channel's coverage of the Players Championship includes graphics, or the Players is just as controlling about its graphics as Augusta.

NBC Graphics at the Players:

NBC's normal golf graphics:

Golf Channel's normal graphics:

Rnd.1 Highlights: AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am - video powered by Metacafe

Golf Channel using Player's Championship graphics (you'll need to get about 42 seconds in or more):

Something's wrong with the Seattle Times' ads and it makes the website REALLY slow.

To the extent it inhibits my browsing experience on other pages in a way it shouldn't.

Or maybe that's just IE7.

Also, I am thisclose to getting myself a Tweeter.