This page is no longer active

Da Blog has moved to Please update your bookmarks, links, and RSS readers.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Forget being a webcomic review that's not about OOTS, CAD, or a DMM production, it's a UF review that doesn't use the phrase "nag strip"! D'oh!

(From User Friendly. Click for full-sized principled treatment.)
I told you we would break out of the rut of only three or four different comics being reviewed! I told you!

In a sense, User Friendly was my first webcomic. Well before I had an inkling of what any webcomics were beyond maybe Penny Arcade, before I even had Da Blog, back in 2006 I started going through the User Friendly archives. At the time, I didn't even see UF as a webcomic, but as a newspaper comic, even if only in "alternative" papers. (Perhaps that was because I had seen UF strips on the walls of my mom's old job. Or because I had seen UF book collections and would have been taken aback at the very idea of webcomics - comics released only online in their first run - at the time I saw them.) The project quickly monopolized a large amount of my time, but I never had even the slightest bit of intention of going through the entire archive. I just wanted to see the strip take shape and read through the archives just to the point where User Friendly had found its status quo, where User Friendly became User Friendly.

I never found it.

Now again, UF was not only my first webcomic, it was the first comic I attempted to catch up on through the online archive, whether print-based or online, and I never attempted to start reading it on a daily basis for any length of time. So it's possible my perspective was skewed by reading everything all at once (not to mention UF's reliance on ongoing storylines), and helped by how briskly I sped through the archives - even though the UF archive project started monopolizing my time, I was scared at how close I was getting to the present at the speed I was going at. (UF has been going for a while and has been running daily for ten years, but the archive's a bit less daunting than that sounds because each strip is brisk and quick.) Still, no matter how far into the strip's run I got, UF never felt like it had found its status quo. Miranda and AJ finally settled their "will-they-or-won't-they" in 2003 or 2004, and it still felt like way too early in the strip's run to resolve that plotline, even though AJ's crush had been a background plot point for years.

Why was that?

User Friendly is a strip for which the most accurate way to describe it is as a kitbashing of several existing works, including some that postdate it, but even that doesn't really do it justice by making it sound like a ripoff. It's so much like Dilbert that it's not so much the Internet's Dilbert as it is the Canadian Dilbert. Except the cast is large and consistent enough to also take on aspects of being more of a webcomic version of The Office (before Jim and Pam, there was AJ and Miranda!). On the other hand, the crew at Columbia Internet get into so much wacky hijinks that it's also kind of like PVP, if PVP had never left the magazine offices and was about an actual technology company rather than a gaming magazine.

Indeed, perhaps the most fitting comparison for User Friendly is to PVP, right down to the mascot. Where PVP has Skull, User Friendly has Dust Puppy, complete with his own side cast bringing their own wacky hijinks, only Erwin and Crud Puppy are a bit more integrated into the daily life of the office (especially Erwin) than Shecky and Scratch. The diverging directions the two strips have taken are telling: while PVP let Skull become emblematic of the strip, Dust Puppy's screen time has been significantly reduced over the years. For being the strip's mascot, he probably appears much less often than any other "regular". He tends to pop most often in standalones, watching TV with AJ, or when UF goes on one of its long (and infamous) "trip" storylines. Crud Puppy has become more of a general emblem of Ultimate Evil; Erwin has essentially become the office's computer, providing an excuse for Illiad to set off a dialogue involving anything on the Internet without needing to find a full two characters to play off each other.

But if there's one truly profound difference between User Friendly and PVP, it is in the art style. PVP regularly changes perspectives from panel to panel, and UF... doesn't. Illiad isn't up there with the worst abusers of copy-and-paste, but he's at about Ctrl+Alt+Del level. The problem, when you compare him to CAD, is that, except in the Sunday strips, there are no color backgrounds or characters, making the monotony more apparent (say what you will about Tim Buckley's use of Google Image Search for backgrounds, it's better than the alternative), and more to the point, Illiad's characters barely open their mouths - seriously, they never open more than a pixel or three when people talk (with occasional exceptions, such as Stef in profile).

(And please don't make me once again fall back on the "this strip uses B^U too" argument, okay? UF's hated enough for it not to help. Thanks.)

Where User Friendly's use of copy-and-paste is most apparent is in an area that merits another comparison to another comic, because in quite a few ways, User Friendly is the Doonesbury of geek culture. This becomes most apparent in Illiad's exterior shots of places like Microsoft and SCO and EA, which are very reminiscent of early Doonesbury's effectively copy-pasted shots of places like the White House. The artistic portrayal of the actual characters and how they talk is not unlike that of early Doonesbury as well, but Garry Trudeau has learned how to mix up his perspectives - even on those exterior shots of the White House - and Illiad still maintains that single-perspective look, occasionally broken up by extreme close-ups so he can claim "see, I shake up my perspectives!" (but mostly to squeeze in more dialogue).

(Then again, Doonesbury was maybe twenty years old by the time Trudeau finally figured perspectives out.)

Comparing UF to Doonesbury (or I suppose at this point, Dilbert meets Doonesbury with a dash of PVP added) provides a neat way to segue to the actual content of the strip itself, because - especially in its single-panel Sunday strips - UF is very much an editorial cartoon. Now, I've previously described xkcd as an editorial cartoon for the Internet, but no one would mistake it for User Friendly. xkcd tends to talk about memes rolling through the Internet, or the happenings of online forums. In short, xkcd tends to limit its satire to the Internet itself, or when it's not doing that, on everyday things people do. UF is a lot more savage, taking on things Big Corporations do that tick a certain class of geek off.

Actually, that "certain class of geek" may hint at one reason why User Friendly, like Ctrl+Alt+Del, has attracted a hatedom that might be out of proportion to its lack of quality. Only unlike CAD, it's not so much a result of people misunderstanding what the strip is about, except in not understanding it before they encounter it. Most of the geek strips that litter the web - Penny Arcade and its ripoffs - tend to center on gaming culture and its related realms. (You could argue there are quite a few that delve into D&D and its ilk, but most of them aim to be more like Order of the Stick, telling stories based on the D&D milieu and keeping their appeal relatively broad.)

UF does have AJ as a gamer representative and most of the cast has some gamer cred, but UF is fundamentally a strip about and for the IT industry. (Tech support industry, when Greg is the focus.) Its humor is geared towards IT professionals who like seeing Microsoft get skewered, like going "yay Linux!", and want to see the annoying marketing guy down the hall get his comeuppance, not the gamers living in their mothers' basements that read Penny Arcade and the like. As PA itself once said, it's not for you. (I should make it clear: UF isn't what xkcd is cracked up to be, either. It's certainly worth a laugh from time to time, even from me, and most of the jokes are at least marginally acessible to any geek.)

Earlier... I guess it was last year, now, wasn't it? - Eric "Websnark" Burns(-White), back when he was still doing his "State of the Web(cartoonist)" series, went into talking about UF expecting to utterly savage it and write a "you had me and you lost me" on it, and instead wrote at length about how UF wasn't bad, it just hadn't changed from when it started and the schtick was growing old. Actually, now that I re-read it, that was what Burns wrote when he first snarked UF at the very beginning, when he still out-and-out hated it, or at least didn't like it, and it's pretty much common knowledge among UF haters. What he actually said last year was basically what I said in the last paragraph. But anyway, there's nothing wrong with remaining exactly the same over the years, with next to no character development. Peanuts essentially played that to perfection. So have most of the gag-a-day strips in the newspapers, to the point of never even letting their characters age.

User Friendly's problem... see, when Burns(-White) did his "State of the (Web)cartoonist" on Illiad, he remarked on the contrast between PVP being criticized for drifting away from simple gag-a-day strips, and UF being criticized for not doing so. I think the difference, and the reason why I never felt that UF ever really became UF (oddly, considering I mentioned earlier that it never found its status quo), was that UF became set in its ways too early. UF never really grew out of adolescence; it essentially froze in time at a point where it had yet to reach maturity, and so when I had my archive binge in 2006, I kept waiting for it to finish rounding into shape, waiting for it to take those last few steps in its evolution. And it never came. Maybe that's because there are a few dangling threads Illiad leaves maddeningly untouched, but it's like there's a germ of a greater webcomic lurking inside User Friendly and that if Illiad hadn't decided "okay, this is the comic I like" so quickly, UF could be a far greater comic strip for the experience. Couple that with its general timelessness (both in its characters and its subject matter) and the reliance on story arcs (the real reason I never got a sense it found its status quo), and UF is really a lot younger comic strip than its years.

User Friendly isn't bad. I'm sure in certain subcultures, its humor is rip-roaringly hilarious. It's just that... it just isn't good. Certainly not good enough to make my RSS reader, if it were even modern enough to have an RSS feed. It's decent enough that I can chuckle at some of the jokes, and find myself hooked enough to go through the archive for longer than I intended, but it's not good enough to draw me to it. It's just cripplingly mediocre, and that might be one of the most dreaded things you can say about a webcomic.

Da Blog's Predictions for 2009

Because a lot of sites I visit are putting up predictions for the new year, so am I, and I'll check back in at year's end to see how I did:
  • The year in sports is a massive disappointment. The Super Bowl pits the Dolphins against the Vikings. North Carolina, after an undefeated regular season, loses in the Final Four and the national championship pits UCLA against UConn. The game is a laugher. Cleveland beats San Antonio in the NBA Finals; the Knicks just barely miss the playoffs and LeBron James signs a contract extention to stay in Cleveland after winning his first championship. Mike D'Antoni agrees to a buyout soon thereafter to coach LeBron in Cleveland, condemning the Knicks to a decade of mediocrity. The Stanley Cup Playoffs pit the Calgary Flames against the Montreal Canadiens, and America tunes out. So does Canada when it turns into a four-game sweep that's not that close. Neither the Red Sox nor Yankees make the ALCS, and one of them misses the playoffs as Tampa Bay and Philadelphia square off again in the World Series.
  • Tiger Woods comes back too soon, finishing second in the Masters, and misses most of 2009, raising concerns he may retire. Jimmie Johnson wins yet another Sprint Cup in a laugher, and by the end of the season he's winning races basically by showing up, with all the teams quitting. Rafael Nadal is the only player to win at least two majors of either gender, and Roger Federer never makes a major final. USC, Cincinnati, and Alabama are the only three undefeated teams by week 4; they stay that way through the end, and USC routs Alabama in the national championship. There are no BCS buster mid-majors. At least one minor league cancels either the 2009 or 2010 season, and at least one MLS team folds. The IRL cuts back drastically on the 2010 season, and doesn't so much pass NASCAR as NASCAR passes it backwards. By 2012, though, the IRL is back to 2008 levels, and returns to ESPN in 2018. UFC effectively becomes NASCAR's replacement as one of the four major sports, and shows it wasn't moving to pay-per-view that killed boxing.
  • The Olympics moves to ESPN and ABC after landing in Chicago. NBC immediately pulls out of the NHL following the 2009-2010 season. ESPN becomes the exclusive cable home of the NHL (beyond NHL Network) after 2011.
  • The Saints challenge for the NFC South, and the Lions are at least respectable. Brett Favre retires and the Jets become the new Lions. Matt Cassel bolts from New England to join the Jaguars, who instantly become a Super Bowl contender. Tom Brady comes back a clearly different player, and the Pats begin a slow slide into mediocrity. The Cowboys self-destruct and don't even challenge for the playoffs. The Titans trade Vince Young to Houston in the offseason.
  • Barack Obama finds himself frazzled by the vexing economic crisis and various foreign crises. Troops are out of Iraq by June, but by August Iraq is effectively ruled by several cabals of warlords. Obama uses the money freed up by exiting Iraq to institute his own version of the New Deal, but it doesn't work very well. Meanwhile little actual "change" happens, even from the politics of the last eight years, and when Obama calls in the military to break up a food riot in November, many in his own party compare him to Bush, and the "netroots" begin forming their own nascent political movement for 2012.
  • By 2012, that movement has gained enough steam to attract attention (and support) from both major parties. However, the economic crisis has only gotten worse and the US has effectively become a vassal state of China... and the Republicans, as a result, prove far more resilient than expected after adopting a bizarre fascist-anarchist policy, a strange kitbashing of the politics of Ron Paul and George W. Bush. Before 2020, World War III has erupted, and America is Nazi Germany after the GOP win the 2012 elections, the last to be held under the Constitution of 1776. The 2016 Olympics become America's 1936 Munich Games, and come complete with a past-his-prime Michael Phelps being dragged back to the pool. The world comes out of the war with the economy back on track, but set back to the Middle Ages if not before. China, India, and Japan become the new "modern" world powers with Depression-era technology, set back from reaching 1950s-era technology by the ravages to the environment. The Amazon becomes a desert; Canada and Russia become the world's new breadbasket.
  • The Internet undergoes its latest metamorphosis. By the end of the year, it is as good at watching video as the average television. In the short term, it only benefits from the deepening economic crisis. When the Obama administration passes a universal broadband bill, it sparks an Internet revolution, and blogs become the new MySpace, since you can at least theoretically make money off them. Internet advertising finally becomes viable, if only because nothing else is.
  • Webcomics undergo an explosion during this time. A Penny Arcade TV series is commissioned for Cartoon Network's Adult Swim block by year's end. By 2010, a Girl Genius movie is in development, and rumors of an Order of the Stick movie persist as well. Sandsday becomes the biggest new thing in webcomics, and by year's end I'm fighting off TV series offers of my own.
  • Da Blog attracts two huge followings in particular: people looking for webcomics criticism, who singlehandedly make it ten times more popular than Websnark ever was, rendering my getting a real job unnecessary, and people looking for straight-dope political analysis. Da Blog plays a significant role in attracting new audiences to politics, healing the rifts of our political landscape, and shaping the aforementioned nascent political movement.
And that just left me incredibly drained and depressed. I think it's better if I don't try to predict what happens, and just try and enjoy the ride. You should try it some time.

2008 Golden Bowl Tournament: Sugar Bowl Semifinal

Sugar Bowl: #3 Texas v. #2 Florida
The biggest test of which conference, the Big 12 or SEC, was truly better over the course of the season provided vindication for a number of different groups, and left people wondering what might have been had the quarterfinals gone just a bit differently.

Truth be told, the Sugar Bowl was not much of a fight. That was the case pretty much from the opening bell. Two Chris Rainey runs put the Gators in Texas territory, and a Tebow throw to Riley Cooper (one of only two completed passes all day) made up for a holding penalty and set up a Rainey draw for the first down, setting up a quick field goal. After an encroachment penalty against the Gators, Cody Johnson broke open a long run to get the Longhorns in Gator territory, but they went three-and-out from there and Jeffery Demps left the defense in his wake on a 74-yard touchdown run. The next Florida drive, following a three-and-out, started with good field position right behind midfield and ended with the second Tebow completion, to Tate Casey for a 37-yard touchdown, but the extra point was shanked. Tebow couldn't complete a pass the rest of the day, and the former Heisman winner was neutered on the ground, rushing 11 times but for a net loss of 3 yards (though that was probably a result of taking knees at the end of the game). This game would be won with the key ingredients of any football championship: running and defense. In particular, Rainey would be named the game's MVP after running 14 times for 150 yards, and Percy Harvin and Demps also ran for over 100 yards each.

Texas would tack on a field goal before the end of the quarter, but Rainey started the second with a 53-yard touchdown run - another reason he would be named MVP, coupled with his second later in the game. Colt McCoy led his team methodically down the field again, relying mostly on himself, both throwing (5 for 6) and running (27 yards on 3 carries), ending with his one touchdown completion, to Jordan Shipley. But it would be the last time Texas scored. Florida tacked on another field goal, and not only did Texas go three-and-out twice before the half, they got the ball a third time before the half, pinned on their own 6, and proceeded to get McCoy sacked in the end zone, bringing the score to an even 28 to Texas' 10. Florida managed to get the ball back so close they went for a field goal before the half, but the 51-yard attempt was just too long for Jonathan Phillips to make.

Not that it really mattered, because the Gators blew the game open in the second half. Texas still didn't pick up a first down until their second drive of the half, by which point Florida had already scored again, thanks to a 58-yard run by Harvin on their first play from scrimmage that set the Gators up on the 22. The Longhorns would get just close enough to be in "no-man's-land", too close to punt but too far out to kick a field goal, and wound up unsuccessfully going for it on fourth and 2. Texas in fact seemed to have the momentum for a chunk of the third quarter, forcing a three-and-out before Vondrell McGee put them in field goal territory, but the 42 yard attempt sailed left. A McCoy fumble to start the fourth quarter, followed by three quick runs by Rainey, Harvin, and Kestahn Moore into the end zone, snuffed out that flame of hope and gave Florida a commanding 42-10 lead. Rainey's second touchdown would come with 2:40 left in the game, just to drive one more nail in the Longhorns' coffin, and bringing vindication to those who felt Oklahoma should have been in the Big 12 title game.
Final score: Texas 10, Florida 49

Final Round matchups:
Fiesta Bowl: #5 Penn State v. #3 Texas
Penn State's rock-hard defense (that has proven to be a little less than rock-hard in this tournament) against Colt McCoy and the astounding Texas offense. The Nittany Lions will need to play like Linebacker U. if they want to capture the third-place title.

Golden Bowl II: #9 USC v. #2 Florida
The National Championship game pits two teams that know the key to winning a championship is a fantastic defense. Both also sport amazing playmakers on offense, with USC keyed by Mark Sanchez and Joe McKnight and Florida led by Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin. Florida has long been considered better tested by their schedule, but beyond Alabama, Georgia, and Ole Miss they didn't play much of anybody (at least if you believe some Big 12 partisans), while USC had to face a real team in the first round and had to dispatch the #1 seed in the tournament on the road in the second. And the way Tebow has been mostly neutered, it's not out of the question to think USC could do it again, and shut down the rest of the Florida offense in the process... then again, Florida's defense has actually been as good as advertised, unlike Penn State's...

Fiesta Bowl coming next weekend. The Golden Bowl will be played over Martin Luther King weekend.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

2008 Golden Bowl Tournament: Non-Semifinal BCS Bowls

Orange Bowl: Texas Tech v. Cincinnati
A close, hard-fought contest proved once and for all that Cincinnati deserved every bit of the seeding they got in the Golden Bowl Tournament - and left the rest of the actual tournament with a high bar to follow.

The tone was set early when Graham Harrell's third pass attempt was intercepted, and returned to the 18, setting up an easy touchdown pass to Dominick Goodman. Unfazed, Harrell led the Red Raiders right down the field, with some help from a couple of throws to Michael Crabtree, including one that Crabtree managed to take into the endzone. After a three-and-out and a Red Raider first down that went nowhere, the Bearcats - pinned inside their own 20 by a holding penalty - marched down the field to the 6 heading into the second quarter before the Raider defense stuffed everything they tried and held them to a field goal. The Red Raiders struck back with their own drive, but faced with fourth-and-1 on the 30, decided to kick a field goal of their own - and watched it sail wide right.

The Bearcats started another good drive before a second-down sack of Tony Pike put them at third-and-17 from the 36. The next play was an incompletion, and the Bearcats were forced to punt - and proceeded to force a three-and-out, after which they picked up where they left off, culminating with Pike-to-Goodman for another touchdown, putting the Bearcats up by ten. Harrell led the Red Raiders on another valiant drive, but on second-and-goal from the five, no timeouts, and twenty-one seconds left, Harrell drops back to pass instead of handing the ball off - and overthrows Shannon Woods, making it third-and-goal with fifteen seconds left. Enough time not to be an ideal circumstance to bring out the field goal unit on any but fourth down, but not enough to comfortably run another play and still get a field goal off (at least if the Raiders had run the ball on second down Harrell could have worked the clock down to three-to-five seconds before spiking the ball). Still, it's somewhat bewildering Mike Leach doesn't at least call for another pass and instead brings out the field goal unit anyway, and perhaps more bewildering when the resulting chip shot bangs off the upright. Cincinnati enters the half with all the momentum and a full ten-point lead, and the analysts wonder if the Red Raiders can get more than a fluke stop.

Baron Batch runs off a 63-yard run before finally getting stopped on the 7 on the second play from scrimmage in the second half, setting up a quick Red Raider touchdown, but the Raider defense still can't stop the Bearcat offense as Pike goes 4-for-5 on the ensuing drive. The incompletion, an overthrown touchdown attempt, helps hold Cincinnati to a 39-yard field goal, keeping the game within a score, and the Raider offense catches a little bit of fire of its own. While the Bearcats are operating slowly and methodically, the Red Raiders score their points with big plays like a 32-yard completion from Harrell to Eric Morris, and a throw to Tramain Swindall that makes Swindall look like a Heisman candidate before he finally dives into the endzone.

After another Cincinnati touchdown, though, the Bearcat defense forces a three-and-out and the Bearcats prove just as unstoppable with yet another touchdown drive that spans the quarter break. Harrell keeps the Raiders in the game with a touchdown drive of his own, but Jacob Ramsey breaks off a 46-yard run that sets up a field goal. The Red Raiders get the ball back with 6:32 left, but burn a lot of clock en route to the end zone and can't complete the two-point conversion, so Cincinnati still has a 36-34 lead. Astoundingly (even though there's still 2:43 remaining), considering how little the Raider defense has been able to stop the Bearcats all day, Leach does not call for an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff - but the Raider defense vindicates his confidence by finally forcing a three-and-out. But Harrell's comeback attempt is a disaster: sacked on first down, an 11-yard completion with 17 to go on second, and two incompletions. Cincinnati sneaks out of Miami with the victory, but Graham Harrell is named the game's MVP for keeping the Red Raiders in the game when Cincinnati ran all up and down on the Raider defense.
Final score: Texas Tech 34, Cincinnati 36

Cotton Bowl: Oklahoma v. Alabama
Stewing from two weeks of pundits suggesting they might be soft or not mentally prepared, the Sooners - once having visions of championships dancing in their heads - vow to make the most of their consolation prize and show people why they had been the #1 seed. After a three-and-out and an Alabama missed field goal, Sam Bradford methodically leads the Sooners down the field and into the end zone. Glen Coffee does most of the work on the ensuing Alabama drive, but it gets stopped on the 6 and forces another field goal, made this time. On Alabama's next drive early in the second, Coffee takes it into the end zone himself and gives the Tide what would be their only lead of the game. Oklahoma's next drive is a three-and-out, but the defense stops Alabama in their own territory and a 65-yard touchdown run gives the Sooners the lead for good.

That long touchdown is arguably the turning point of the game. Alabama doesn't get a first down for the rest of the half and Oklahoma's next drive, already starting in Alabama territory, starts with two Chris Brown runs before Jermaine Gresham catches a Bradford pass and outruns the defense for a 36-yard touchdown. Oklahoma enters the half with a 21-10 lead, but Alabama methodically makes its way down the field to cut that lead to four to start the second half, this time with John Parker Wilson taking a more central role. Oklahoma brushes it off, though, when Brown breaks open another touchdown run of more than 60 yards. Alabama makes another effort on their next drive, but get stopped near midfield. Oklahoma, though, doesn't do much better on their next drive and Alabama manages to take the punt almost to where it was punted from to start the fourth quarter.

Wilson hits Nick Walker for a 36-yard gain to set up a throw to Coffee for the touchdown (a risky touchdown throw on fourth-and-1 from the 8), picking up the two-point conversion to get within a field goal. But once again, Oklahoma brushes it off with another big play, this time a long run on the second play from scrimmage that just barely gets tackled a yard short of the end zone. After the eventual TD, Alabama has Coffee and Mark Ingram (and occasionally Roy Upchurch) trade carries until they get inside the Sooner 40 with six minutes left, after which they rely more on Wilson's arm. Although he gets an 18-yard first down completion on his first try, the next three plays are a short completion, an incompletion, and a sack, holding the Tide to a field goal with a little less than five minutes to play. Alabama opts to kick it away and Oklahoma makes them pay, taking the kickoff to their own 31, having Bradford make a 20-yard completion to the Tide 33, and breaking open yet another touchdown run from there. The demoralized Tide get nowhere on the ensuing drive, but the defense do manage to get enough of a stop to force the Sooners to kick a field goal on fourth down. There's nowhere near enough time to make up a 17-point deficit, though.
Final score: Oklahoma 45, Alabama 28

USC is in the Golden Bowl. Who will join them, Texas or Florida? Tune in tomorrow and find out!

2008 Golden Bowl Tournament: Minor Bowls Part II

As there's only one bowl after today that's affected by the Golden Bowl Tournament as listed here, I'm clearing them all out right now. (And don't you wish the Chick-fil-A Bowl was the one told of here instead of the one we got?) For whatever reason it appears SportsLine isn't doing expected weather conditions anymore.

Outback Bowl: Ole Miss 28, Michigan State 21
Cordera Eason (43-yard TD run) and Ashlee Palmer (game-ending INT) are Mississippi state heroes.

Capitol One Bowl: Ohio State 21, Georgia 27
Big Ten haters are going to have a field day with this one.

Gator Bowl: Nebraska 30, Georgia Tech 37
The Huskers stayed in it much better than most people expected, and still had a shot to win at the end, making it into the red zone on their last possession.

Liberty Bowl: LSU 34, East Carolina 20
LSU gets more of a challenge here than they did in the real-life Chick-fil-A Bowl.

More bowls still to come!

This space intentionally left blank.

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

So, did you hear? Apparently the very fabric of the universe got torn apart yesterday.

Bit of a grim way to put up my first post of the new year, eh?

On another note, why isn't Supers or Miscellaneous among the myriad of themes listed on this strip?

(Yes, I am reviewing a comic that's not by David Morgan-Mar today. However, I'm probably going to put up another post on IWC if and when there's another comic. Which I will spend all of today, if not beyond, anxiously awaiting.)

(On another note, I'm fairly sure Sandsday is the very first comic to update its "status" on Buzzcomix in the new year, going by timestamps at least. Yay me! Let's put up a wildly propagandized historical marker to mark the occasion!)

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Final Post of 2008: Year In Review

Because I just got a new idea and I'm breaking up my minor bowls into two posts, you're actually getting THREE posts each today and tomorrow!



Can you believe that just happened?

I mean... this was a year in which, after eight years of Bush, a Democrat was elected President in resounding fashion. And in so doing became the first black president in the nation's history... after being completely unheard of four years ago (and arguably, not much better two years later). And running a campaign that was not only the culmination of a four-year trend of people's participation in political campaigns, but was almost a people's movement on par with anything coming out of the sixties. Almost literally, Barack Obama was no longer a candidate or even a person; he was a cause.

Speaking of his race, this was a year when - out of nowhere - after years of both groups being in the wilderness, it became virtually guaranteed from the start that either a black or a woman would garner a major-party nomination for President.

And both of those produced, by far, one of the most entertaining presidential campaigns ever.

This was a year that ushered us into what almost everyone is calling not a mere recession, but our worst crisis of the sort since the Great Depression... and it has a shot to be even worse than that, and upend everything we know about American society.

This was a year that produced so many great sports moments that ESPN had little to do but sit there, awestruck, and produce one single special, lacking any of the formatting of past specials, that proclaimed it simply "the Greatest Year in Sports", including an Olympics that produced too many moments to count, from the Opening Ceremonies to Michael Phelps to Usain Bolt and plenty more you probably didn't see. No "Top 10 Games" special as in years past, and I should have included the Ryder Cup in my own list. Probably at #8, bumping out #8 or #9. Seriously, I could have easily made it a top 20, and that may have been the problem.

And most of all, this was a year that produced a lot of turmoil in my own life... when I launched my own webcomic and finally found a voice on Da Blog, when I found myself at a crossroads that will only begin to be resolved as we enter the new year.

It's kind of hard to imagine that such a chaotic year is finally coming to an end.

I had seen 2006 as a fairly pivotal year, but that was because of my interests: the ten-year-old UPN and WB networks finally collapsed into the CW (with its sloppy seconds joining a hastily-formed network that now, shockingly, is in far better position than the CW), the NFL started a new primetime paradigm with NBC, ESPN, and its own network, and the Democrats took both houses of Congress and set the stage for the retaking of the White House.

This was far bigger than that. This was my generation's 1968.

Depending on how much Bush's legacy holds up, this could prove to be the true beginning of the "twenty-first century", much like World War I was the true beginning of the 20th (and the end of the Cold War was arguably its end). In my own life, it seems like I've been 20 forever (are you sure I was only 19 when the Iowa caucuses happened, let alone when I launched Sandsday?), and I'm still going to be 20 for almost five more months! It's like the previous 20 years was just a prelude to this year forward in my life.

Here's to 2008, in all its wild wackiness, in all aspects of the game.

2009 has a heck of an act to follow.

It's going to be a mite awkward for it to sink in that it is 2009.

2008 Golden Bowl Tournament: Minor Bowls (through end of 2008)

Bowls affected by the Golden Bowl Playoffs as listed here only. If I may be allowed to rant for a bit, while I was able to calculate these games I'm astounded by the idea that people are ONLY interested in weather of the future. I was able to find the weather from SportsLine's (aka CBS Sports) previews, but as SportsLine doesn't link to its previews I only found out about it by a fluke, and as it's on a PREVIEW and not on the box score I don't know exactly how much precipitation there was or if there was any, only what the chance of any was before the game. It's not like the weather is an important aspect of understanding the game; if we need to know it before the game, why not after? I mean, if it's good enough for Whatifsports, why not real sports sites? And are we really more able to tell whether there will be rain than how much there will be, or if that's not the case, are we really more interested? Anyway, onwards and upwards, with wild guesses taken on the rain:

EagleBank Bowl: Miami (FL) 27, Navy 23
Navy managed to keep a closer game of it than in the real game against an arguably better opponent, but couldn't get the job done in the end.

New Mexico Bowl: BYU 62, Fresno State 28
The Bulldogs lost the real game to a 6-6 Mountain West team. Imagine them facing an opponent that was actually ranked.

Las Vegas Bowl: Utah 58, Arizona 20
BYU underestimated the Wildcats in the real game. Utah's too good to make that mistake.

Motor City Bowl: Central Michigan 6, Wisconsin 42
Um... should we be glad the Golden Bowl isn't real and we didn't actually get these atrocious bowl matchups?

Emerald Bowl: California 42, Clemson 17
It's the Jahvid Best show! And I didn't even set Cal as a home team!

Independence Bowl: Kentucky 0, Wake Forest 16
Now here, we didn't get a game between two sucky minor conference teams. Too bad it's a freakin' shutout! Bowl: Rutgers 64, Florida Atlantic 38
You notice a lot of these bowls look like early-season "guarantee" games. Though to be fair, Rutgers didn't exactly set the world on fire this year, and Florida Atlantic won its "real-life" bowl. And you notice the Owls put up a lot of points on the board on their own part.

Texas Bowl: NC State 59, Rice 49
Now here's a game that got improved by the Golden Bowl: Rice gets a BCS opponent! That alone makes it worth watching! And the game was more competitive than the real thing, as Chase Clement kept the Owls in it almost to the end.

Chick-fil-A Bowl: South Carolina 17, Virginia Tech 24
The team that actually was in the Golden Bowl tournament sneaks out of the Georgia Dome with a victory, despite a valiant comeback attempt by Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks.

In the new year I bring the rest of the minor bowls, as well as the non-semifinal BCS bowls. Watch the Rose Bowl knowing it's more than a meaningless what-if game, but actually a national semifinal in the Golden Bowl tournament, and I'll have the other semifinal on Friday.

Random Internet Discovery of the Week

I can't say I particularly understand this.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Update time

Okay, so maybe I'm not posting on another webcomic tonight (Tuesday). In fact it'll probably not be out until Thursday at the earliest. As I've mentioned, several popular webcomics aren't updating because of the holiday, so I picked out a webcomic for this week fairly late.

I will have two posts both tomorrow and Thursday to make up for it.

Monday, December 29, 2008

I'm pretty sure this is the post I intended to post on Thursday but forgot.

One of the things Robert A. Howard accosted me for in his comment-rant a little over a week ago was my tendency to squee like a fangirl at any links whatsoever.

Now, the main reason I post whenever I get linked, aside from being convinced that this is the link that will bring me everlasting fame and I want to commemorate the moment, is to alert potential advertisers of traffic bumps, so they can bump up their bids accordingly. However, I'm not sure it's particularly useful for that purpose. Most people probably use Project Wonderful's "campaign" feature to place their bids, which automatically scale to match current traffic, and PW also provides its own tools to alert bidders of important links, albeit from a select list of traffic generators. Find out more here, although I'm not even sure if this system still works. (Not to say that you can't get on to Da Blog bidding by hand - I did so successfully on what was really a test bid on a couple of webcomics advertising for Sandsday, though I think I only showed up on one. If that makes any sense.)

So in a new Da Blog Poll that's been running since Sunday and will continue for a couple of weeks, I want to ask: do you find the acknowledgements of traffic bumps useful or annoying? Do you think they're useful for advertising even if they are a little annoying to anyone else, or are they useless even for advertising because the acknowledgement tends to lag quite a bit behind the bump itself? You can find the poll in the sidebar, and the comment section of this post will allow you to sound off beyond just the two options on the sidebar.

Those big, hairy critters can be a bit stroppy.

(From Irregular Webcomic! Click for full-sized very fabric of the universe yada yada.)
You know your crisis is reaching monumental proportions when it starts roping in themes that aren't even regular.

When it starts roping in Harry Potter... and the Star Wars theme that's been virtually unheard of since Darths and Droids started.

At this point, I wouldn't be surprised if Espionage got involved... or even the Supers theme that hasn't been heard from in ages. We've already seen six themes out of fourteen that aren't Death, Miscellaneous, or Me. (Cliffhangers, Mythbusters, Shakespeare, and Martians are the others.)

That leaves Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday strips to finish up the seven strips needed to rope in every last theme... but crossovers will almost certainly be included in there, and it would be poetic justice to put the critical moment one year to the day after the death of Me.

(Then again, it evidently never occured to the Comic Irregulars how close Phantom Menace would come to wrapping up in 200 strips, so why should I give DMM credit for minding the one-year gap? Though who am I to speak? For whatever reason, I keep wallowing in Morgan-Mar central instead of just posting on a non-Morgan-Mar, non-OOTS, non-CAD strip on Tuesday like I'm GOING to do.)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Meanwhile in Irregular Webcomic, we're slowly going through Armageddon theme by theme, I guess.

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

Just when I say I'm going to move away from a small set of webcomics, Da Blog practically becomes David Morgan-Mar Central. Perhaps because Morgan-Mar has a lot of stuff going on all at once, between this and Irregular Crisis.

My already-slim prediction of ending the current movie at #200 is looking unlikely. But we have started the preparations for the next movie - including a rather... unusual... answer to the question of who Jim will play next.

Huh? First of all, who are we talking about? Padme, or the Queen? They switched places for the bulk of The Phantom Menace, but while on the one hand Jim is excited about being a ruler, implying Amidala, he specifically asks Obi-Wan to give his stuff to Padme...

...and given the blossoming relationship between Padme and Anakin in the second and third movies, that would seem to hold more dramatic potential. (A man and a woman role-play a relationship between a man and a woman... only they play each other's gender. Awk-ward! And a minefield of potential commentary to boot!)

Although Wikipedia indicates that, contra the impression I had gotten from the Darths and Droids annotations (with some help from Attack of the Clones promo materials), Padme and Amidala are actually the same person and the person dolled up as Amidala for most of Phantom Menace is completely unimportant. (Which when you think about it, would make sense for Leia being a "princess" in the original trilogy.)

In any case, we can begin formulating what might happen for the duration of two movies now on the basis of a single strip. Too bad we can't seem to formulate what might happen for the duration of a week on Da Blog on the basis of a single post. But we will break out of the rut on Tuesday, I guarantee it!

In case you were wondering...

I was right. The NFL was freaking out over having the slightest chance of Dolphins-Jets being made mostly (not even entirely) irrelevant by game time.