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Monday, August 17, 2009

The most important day in the history of the Morgan Wick Online Universe since the launch of Da Blog, and a day never to be matched in importance again.

The day has arrived that I knew would come ever since I launched the web site.

I have moved the web site from to will be the new home for all aspects of the Morgan Wick Online Universe, from the seemingly-stalled comic strip Sandsday to the 100 Greatest Movies Project to the street sign gallery to my sports projects. That includes Da Blog. Effective immediately, all blog posts will be hosted at, and the Blogspot account will stop updating. (Some dummy posts may start appearing next year.) Please update your bookmarks and RSS feeds to point to

I've made my frustration with Blogger and Freehostia clear over the past several months. Blogger was clunky and prone to problems. Freehostia had a clunky file manager in IE, a frustrating FTP, and only one MySQL database on the free plan. Both of them, however, should be commended for getting me a head start in building the content that will now make the move to In fact, the problems with Freehostia have been sufficiently mitigated that I might be tempted to continue housing the new web site on Freehostia, especially since my ads pay for my domain but not my hosting.

However, that's only possible in the short term, and it's not really possible. I'm only allowed one MySQL database on Freehostia and it pretty much has to be used by my blogging platform; while the blogging platform is robust enough to handle a lot, I kinda need to at least have the freedom to create a second database for certain purposes. And as long as I'm moving to my own domain and moving up to paying for the hosting, I should get the best domain, hosting, and blogging services there are out there, and get the most bang for the buck for them.

For me, and for those particular fields, that means moving to Namecheap, Hostmonster, and Wordpress.

For most people, GoDaddy is the only domain registrar they've ever heard of. I decided very early on in the process of finding a domain registrar that I would not use GoDaddy. By all accounts, they're all T&A (literally), no substance (or customer service), and possibly the worst domain registrar on the Internet, used only by amateurs who watch TV to find an Internet domain registrar and don't really know what they're doing. Namecheap was one of the most commonly cited and praised names that came up in a search for good domain registrars. I found Hostmonster the same way I found Freehostia - by looking at sites that would compare hosting services side-by-side for me based on other people's reviews. Hostmonster came out on top on multiple such comparison sites despite some tight competition, especially since Wordpress didn't include a link to Hostmonster that I could use to support Wordpress, but did contain a link to Hostmonster's sister service Bluehost.

That might be the last time I mention either service. You don't need to know who I paid for the domain or who's hosting the site. It's my very own domain now. I mention them in case I ever have problems with either service, or in case I ever move from either and have to shut down the site while the move processes. If there's a quibble with Hostmonster, it's that they've been known to shut down sites without warning for violations of Terms of Service, which basically comes down to backing up the site and not getting the domain and hosting from the same place lest you become unable to leave.

Chances are if you've ever heard of any of the three services, you've heard of Wordpress. Even in the unlikely scenario you haven't heard of it, you've seen it. Adherents to Movable Type would proclaim its superiority, but by many accounts Wordpress is the best blogging platform on the Internet, and certainly the best free one. It's fitting that there are three major blogging platforms and they all appeal to different people. Blogger is the quickest, dirtiest way to start a blog if you don't want to pay any money and don't know anything about the Internet, especially if you want to start building something big. (Both Wordpress and Movable Type have hosting services using their infrastructure but Wordpress' functionality is extremely limited - ads aren't even allowed. Typepad is a pay service, which makes me wonder why anyone who could afford it wouldn't just start their own Movable Type site.)

Wordpress is the best service if you have your own hosting and don't want to pay, and Movable Type is best if you believe "you get what you pay for" and can afford to pay the price to get better than a volunteer effort - though depending on your philosophy on the Internet and your exact needs, Wordpress may still be best. (No less than the government of Great Britain uses Wordpress to host its site.) It may be ideal to take the path I took - build an audience on Blogger and take it to a self-hosted Wordpress site when it gets big enough.

Honestly, not only did I grow frustrated with Blogger over the years, I've started to distrust it a little; use of Blogger has started to throw up a red flag of amateurism for me, especially the use of variants of the default Minima template, which is used by some of my favorite blogs. The effect is mitigated with the use of templates that at least look original, and when people have their own domain it reminds me less that it's a Blogspot blog, but there's still that niggling feeling in the back of my mind that I can't shake while reading something like Awful Announcing: why aren't they at least using Wordpress?

I saw why Wordpress is so beloved shortly after starting experimenting with it. It was loaded with so many features that I could use. It wasn't so clunky as to eat the code I tried to feed into it (see: my first attempt at Da Countdown). Some of the problems surrounding draft posts, such as the matter of finding them if I stopped working on them and wanted to come back to them later (something that led me to start scheduling unfinished posts), as well as some of the patches Blogger tried to put on, such as the inaccurate post time for all unscheduled posts that led Blogger to tweak the posting settings, as well as some of the quirks of scheduled posts, aren't an issue with Wordpress, which has a "last saved draft" field allowing you to schedule a post without making it leave draft mode. And Wordpress' "pages" allows me to create my own, custom, "about me" page.

More important to you, Wordpress doesn't make it complicated to post a comment - you won't be tempted to post as "Anonymous" anymore when you wouldn't normally do so. Just fill out your name, e-mail, and if you have a web site a link to it, and you're all set. And because of the Akismet spam protection system you don't have to fill out a CAPTCHA anymore either, which is really more trouble than it's worth since it only protects against automated, not human, spam, and automated systems can easily crack it. (If your comment doesn't show up, don't panic; wait 24 hours to see if it shows up. After that, contact me with a copy of your comment; there is some anecdotal evidence of Akismet eating comments without the capability of accessing them, but if so it's so rare that on the thread I looked at, WordPress couldn't even reproduce it.) Tomorrow I'll launch the new forums to complement the site and the comments, which I'll have more detail on then.

And perhaps most of all, Wordpress has a robust system of "categories", including the ability to make subcategories. Wordpress also has "tags" and my initial instinct was to make all of my labels tags, since that was what they seemed to resemble, and only make those labels that bore the most resemblance to subsites into categories, so I was a bit frustrated when Wordpress wanted to convert them all to categories by default without giving me a choice. But after reading up on the distinction between the two (it seeems tags are mostly a search engine helper) I decided that the way I use labels, it made the most sense to convert all labels into categories.

Because of my various interests, I always intended to create various subsites once I moved to to house my various projects in various fields. Because of that, because of the presence of subcategories, because of the decision to make Da Blog the front page of, and because of the intricities of the move itself, I have made several changes to the category structure, with virtually all categories affected:
  • All categories are now properly capitalized.
  • The "100 Greatest Movies Project" label is now a subcategory of "movies".
  • "About Me" remains as-is but may, in the future, be split into multiple categories.
  • "Advertising" is now a subcategory of "Web Site News". As I've said before, most important information about ads will now come via Twitter.
  • "Astronomy" is now a subcategory of "Science".
  • "Blog News" is now a subcategory of "Web Site News". The exact role of both "Blog News" and "Web Site News" given the merger of the two, the further splitting of the blog into subsites, and the role of Twitter, is undetermined at this point.
  • Because not all formatting was preserved when importing all the old posts from Da Blog, and because comments will not be associated with any other comments you make going forward, the "Classic Da Blog" category will be extended to include all posts before last week, and will no longer be just a quick way to get Technorati to update correctly. (By the way, 5vjhdtuzmg.)
  • "College Football Lineal Title", "College Football Schedule", and "College Football Rankings" are all now subcategories of "College Football".
  • The just-launched new category "Constitution" is now a subcategory of "Politics", as are both the Democratic and Republican Platform Reviews.
  • "Election 2008" is also now a subcategory of "Politics", and "Election 2008 Live Blog" is in turn a subcategory of "Election 2008".
  • "Education Policy", "Foreign Affairs", and "Health Care", all categories used solely in the platform reviews, are now subcategories of "Politics".
  • "General TV Business" is now just "TV Business". See below.
  • "Human Nature" is now a subcategory of "Philosophy", two categories neither of which with very many posts.
  • There is a new "Random Internet Discovery" subcategory of "Internet Adventures".
  • "IRL" and "NASCAR" are now subcategories of "Auto racing".
  • "Microsoft" is now a subcategory of "Computer geekery", two categories that may never be used again.
  • "MLS" is now a subcategory of "Soccer".
  • "News You Can Use" is now a subcategory of "My Comments on the News"; both its posts were members of that category already.
  • "NFL Lineal Title" is now a subcategory of "NFL". "NFL Superpower Rankings" has been deleted, and all the posts it contained moved to "Superpower Rankings" which has been made a subcategory of "NFL".
  • "Non-UFC MMA" has been renamed "MMA" and "UFC" has been made a subcategory of it.
  • "Fantasy Football" is now a subcategory of "NFL".
  • "Simulated CFB Playoff" is now "Golden Bowl Simulated CFB Playoff" and a subcategory of "College Football".
  • "SNF Flex Scheduling Watch" is now a subcategory of "NFL".
  • "Sports in general" is now simply "Sports" and all sports categories have been made subcategories of it, as have "Sports TV Business", "Sports TV Graphics" and "Sports Watcher". "NFL" and "College football" are now subcategories of a new "Football" category, and "NBA", "College basketball" and "WNBA" are now subcategories of a new "Basketball" category. All my sports posts are available at, as are the old Morgan Wick Sports features.
  • "TV Upfronts" is now a subcategory of "TV Business".
  • "Webcomic news" is now "Sandsday", a subcategory of itself, and a subcategory of "Web site news". (To clarify: "Web site news" now contains a subcategory "Webcomic news", which contains a subcategory "Sandsday", which contains all the old "Webcomic news" posts.)
  • "Webcomics" is now hosted at and is loaded with new features, including an index to reviews, tags for each webcomic mentioned in a post, new categories for full-fledged reviews and reviews of webcomics blogs, a new "Webcomics' Identity Crisis" category for both the series itself and the ongoing blog thereof, and an index to said series, with potentially more features to come.
In addition, all web site features have new addresses, and may not be immediately accessible:
  • (the Greatest Movies Project) is now at
  • (Morgan Wick Sports) is now at It may be a while before this section of the site returns to full functionality, and when it does everything will be at a new URL. Watch the Twitter feed to find out when everything is restored, and where to find it.
  • (the Street Sign Gallery) is now at
  • (Sandsday) is now at I'm still trying to translate the PHP from PHP 4 to PHP 5, so it won't be linked to there until then.
For the time being, the Premier ad is being shut down, as it doesn't translate easily to the new site. and will remain up, but not maintained; in a year my Freehostia account will lapse and that site will no longer work.

It's a new day on Let's go boldly forward into the future.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

OOTS 672: Not a montage, but the next best thing.

(From The Order of the Stick. Click for full-sized metaplanets. Despite the title, this is part of the "monthly" OOTS post series.)

Important note: Comments are turned off for this post until the site reboot goes through. You'll have plenty of time to leave your comments after that.

I already had only a vague idea where OOTS would go entering the next book.

The one thing that seemed certain was that the OOTS was headed for its next showdown with Team Evil at Girard's Gate, and the OOTS is certainly headed there. Team Evil is busy at the moment tracking down Xykon's phylactery, and opinions are divided as to whether it's to hasten their departure (as suggested by Xykon's "as soon as we find it we're leaving!" rhetoric), or delay it (as suggested by the fact that from Team Evil's perspective, the phylactery could be "who the hell knows where!"). I'm in the "hasten" camp (though I don't have that many allies on the forums), especially since the OOTS is already ahead of Team Evil on the road to Girard's Gate by a good margin, and would only get further ahead by any delays to Team Evil. For Team Evil to need to be delayed, we'd need the OOTS to be delayed as well.

If anything delays the OOTS it's dramatic considerations: it makes the most sense for the showdown for Girard's Gate to be the big climactic showdown at the end of the book. That means any other adventures the OOTS might have on the Western continent - presumably, ones performed en route to Girard's Gate - must in any case occur before reaching the gate (unless getting off the Western continent in the book after next is an issue... more on that later). Clearly something is likely to happen to delay the OOTS, and even if they spend some siesta time in Sandsedge (and Books 2 and 3 have both opened with slow periods in towns, and Book 4 opened with a slow period in Heaven) that's not likely to actually be very long in in-comic time. That means one of two things: something happens to them in the desert that delays them, probably substantially, like more bandits, or something happens to sidetrack them entirely, something that at least seems more important than outracing Team Evil to Girard's Gate.

What would be more important than making it to Girard's Gate as fast as possible? A visit to the Western continent means a potential trek through Elven lands, so Vaarsuvius might want to catch back up with his people, but there is no evidence that V wants to return there, that she'd be accepted there, or that the plot would have any reason for her to return there. (Unless Pompey is waiting there...) If anything of that sort happens, it might be during the march off the continent in the next book.

More likely would be Haley's quest to free her father, floating in the background of her character since we first learned of his capture (134?) This book has seen confirmation of the fact that Ian Starshine's captor is indeed on the Western continent, and while the greedy side of Haley's character had already been weakened by her Resistance experience, Celia's "deal" with the Thieves Guild would completely ruin any hope she might normally have of collecting enough money to free her father. What's more, Haley just told Elan the whole story. Plots for one book are usually well-laid-down in the background of the previous book; even in Book 3, which mostly tied up most of the plots from all the previous books, there was still plenty of foreshadowing of the Kubota subplot, if not for its larger irrelevance. Haley terminated Celia's deal on her way out of the Thieves Guild HQ, but as it had paid off absolutely zilch at that point, if you don't think it's coming back to haunt her later you haven't been reading stories very long (or at least you don't visit TV Tropes). A likely scenario would involve the Thieves Guild tracking down Haley in the desert and battling the OOTS, which could leave Haley with a problem only she and Elan can solve.

That problem, though, could really stress-test their relationship (and not just their joint one with the OOTS). It's almost taken as given on the OOTS forums that "Lord Tyrinar", the man holding Haley's father captive, is in fact himself the tyrannical father of Elan and Nale (watch that crest!). What sorts of hilarity might ensue from the complex interplay between Haley, Ian, Tyrinar, Elan, and Nale? One suggestion comes in this comic, which seems to imply that Elan did not exactly tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about Therkla to Haley. We do know Haley knows that there was a "ninja chick who had a crush on him, then died", but it's clear that Elan didn't entirely hold to his commitment to honesty he gives in flashback in the same strip. Did Haley not quite succeed in making sure Elan didn't "hate" her for her secret backstory (parts of which are, it's clear to me, being hidden from us for a reason), or had Elan already decided to go ahead and set up future "entertaining dramatic conflict", only in a sneaky way? (These two are perfect for each other!)

(It's only on later re-reading that I realize Elan could have just as easily been referring to Crystal, not Therkla. That could STILL lead to dramatic tension later, though, as it's not clear exactly how relevant Haley found the personal aspect of her rivalry with Crystal, meaning it could be Elan's turn to learn an incomplete version for dramatic purposes.)

Team Evil is more likely to be delayed by Hinjo's elven allies than by Xykon's phylactery. Xykon and Redcloak are under attack seemingly on all fronts: there's the unified Resistance Haley left behind, there's the elves that are meeting with them, and there's the prisoners O-Chul inspired. Between that and Xykon's demand to leave the instant his phylactery is recovered, Redcloak's planned goblin state is teetering on the edge of the abyss. And yet there's also plenty of potential for conflict between these various groups and with the Sapphire Guard once they make their return. In the absence of Team Evil there may only be a power vacuum and civil war in Azure City. And what if Xykon, kept in town by the phylactery, is forced to leave prematurely by the forces allied against him, meaning the elves made the situation worse instead of better?

Which brings us to what will happen at the gate itself. Roy is doing a lot of on-panel plotting here of exactly how the battle is going to go, and anyone with an understanding of dramatic conventions must realize those plans are almost bound to get thrown out the window the instant the battle begins. Xykon will already be at the gate, or something else will happen to muck up the waterworks in a way that renders Roy's planning almost null and void. Not that we won't see his disrupting attack he learned from his grandfather, but we probably won't even see much of an opportunity for pre-battle preparations, and Belkar's much-prophesied demise will happen in a much different way than Roy envisions.

The most likely candidate for that to happen would come from the IFCC, and their various designs on the gate. Although it's intentionally vague, the IFCC seem to be setting the Linear Guild in position ahead of everyone else at the gate itself, beating both the OOTS and Team Evil there in the process. That seems to jive with Nale's original plan, but that would mean Nale would miss out on the whole Tyrinar business, implying maybe there's not a familial relation involved there after all. Unless the Tyrinar business comes after the battle for Girard's Gate, in the sixth book before the OOTS leaves the Western continent... But the IFCC also want "conflict. Destructive unnecessary conflict", and they could decide that "moving their pawns into position" means creating conflict that prevents the OOTS from reaching Girard's Gate too soon, and that could mean an alliance with Nale's father. Besides, the IFCC's real focal point for their plotting as far as the gate is concerned, it's fairly heavily implied, centers on V, and the 45 minutes of V's soul they have.

Which brings us to the absolute bombshell towards the end of this strip that pretty much completely destroys any ideas the people on the forum had regarding the future course of the entire rest of the strip. It turns out that no one - not Redcloak, not Xykon, not the IFCC, not the Linear Guild, not the OOTS, not the Sapphire Guard - may have any idea what the gates are really protecting, that there are some things that the gods may have held back even from the Order of the Scribble (or, alternately, that they held back), things that, at this point, only Vaarsuvius knows. Once again, I preface this by saying I haven't read the prequel books and whatever implications they may have on all this, but it's possible that, if the whole notion of the Snarl is so completely different from what we have been led to believe, Redcloak's plan is horribly flawed at its core (and it's entirely possible for it to be a complete success as far as what he and the Dark One need to do, and still totally backfire) and virtually the entirety of the main plot of OOTS is, as the IFCC would put it, "destructive unnecessary conflict", this time semi-unintentionally engineered by the gods. And what is this planet within the planet, anyway? Please don't spring a Planet of the Apes ending on us and tell us "it's our earth!"

(It's doubtful the Order of the Scribble didn't know this, incidentally, because they would have had at least as much contact with the rifts as Blackwing did, and at the very least, if they never did know it leaves open the question of what exactly happened to Mijung. In fact this could be fodder for another entire OOTS post in itself, reinterpreting the Crayons of Time series and pretty much everything I wrote in my post on the non-interference clause, which may have been adopted for very different reasons than we'd been led to believe. And suddenly the "MitD is an aspect of the Snarl" theory becomes a lot more plausible... because it doesn't become incompatible with any other theories. Also note that I've only offered one theory; others include the notion that the Snarl has somehow "de-snarled", that the Snarl didn't destroy everything it touched as suggested but instead incorporated it into this new world, that the gates actually changed the Snarl's nature, and even that the world Blackwing saw was the OOTS world itself. Considering the popularity of these, not even V may fully grasp the implications, but what will it mean when the IFCC cashes in?)

Congratulations, Rich Burlew. You've done what, when it came to your strip, might have seemed impossible. You've rendered us totally clueless. We may need this three-week break between books as much as you do. And given how many other groups are in different situations at the end of this book, it's either telling of how tight-lipped you're getting about future plot turns, or just surprising, that you didn't end this book with a full-scale montage like the others.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Random Internet Discovery of the Week and a prelude to a series of posts a year away

See, now, this was the sort of thing I had in mind when StumbleUpon allowed me to bring more specific criteria to the RID! I may have to refer back to this when it comes time to run a related series next year. And that series is hinted at in the new label.

Important notice: Any comments left between now and the launch of the new site will not survive the launch of the new site. We are that close to launching the new site.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

How LeBron salvaged Kobe's reputation

I was originally saving this post for the big relaunch of the site, when I would have a week of exciting, interesting posts. Various factors have been continually pushing that back much further than I ever intended. But the relaunch should go through next weekend, sometime between the 15th and 17th, as I'm very close to taking care of both those factors and the last few tweaks needed before relaunching the site.

In the interim, in our 24/7, hypermedia world, we've already forgotten and moved on from the LeBron dunk story. The word came out that Nike suppressed the tape of LeBron being dunked on by a college journeyman, we all laid shame on Nike and LeBron, crappy, Zapruder-like tape came out and we all ridiculed Nike and LeBron some more, saying we would have seen the footage and forgotten about it if LeBron had just let the tape go... and then we forgot about it.

But I think that, in the big picture, LeBron James, in the space of a few months, has done more to salvage the reputation of Kobe Bryant than anything Bryant himself could have ever done.

LeBron was supposed to be the good guy. He was supposed to be the guy who helped his teammates, didn't get into legal trouble, came from Akron and helped the local small-market team to an NBA title. He was supposed to be everything big-market, me-me-me Kobe wasn't. Kobe was a petulant individualist who was accused of sexual assault in Colorado and was poison to team chemistry, ultimately driving out Shaq and demanding to have the Lakers to himself, to carry a team on his own shoulders. The hopes of NBA purists rested on LeBron to give Kobe what for.

But three things have happened to completely reverse the roles. In reverse order: One, the LeBron dunk controversy. Two, Kobe DID carry a championship team by himself. And three, LeBron's reaction to losing the Eastern Conference Finals, refusing to shake hands or address the media.

Bracketing Kobe's title win were two events that create a new narrative of LeBron James. The dunk controversy in particular makes LeBron come off as a carefully crafted persona, too perfect, a fake, a creation of Nike. (After a shorter career with fewer titles, LeBron is more visible in Nike ad campaigns than Kobe.) Getting dunked on may have seemed harmless, but it didn't fit the Nike storyline of perfection, so Nike tried to erase it from the narrative and in the process exposed the true LeBron. Kobe Bryant, by contrast, is human, and (unlike LeBron) lets his human foibles come through. Kobe is one of us, what we would be like if we had Kobe's talent. According to this narrative, LeBron couldn't handle losing the Eastern Conference Finals because it didn't fit into The Plan as laid out by Nike, which says that LeBron must always find success.

We may end up seeing Kobe's career from 2004 to 2008 very differently than we did at the time. We may see it as the struggles of a tortured man to find his individuality and find fulfillment, struggling to balance the demands of NBA stardom with his own needs and desires. Finally he managed to find the magical combination that could lead him to the title he could claim as his own. As for LeBron, probably the only way he can even hope to kill the narrative, the only way he can go back to being Michael Jordan instead of Tim Tebow, is to stay in Cleveland, or at least move to another mid-sized market. If he moves to New York, the Clippers, or even Portland (capital of the Nike empire), all moves that would be driven by Nike's marketability needs more than anything else, I'm going to start calling him LeNike or LeSwoosh.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Random Internet Discovery of the Week

Now this is why I was optimistic about the changes in StumbleUpon getting me better RIDs! I think this is the second time in RID history I've been delivered to something I was already familiar with. This version is more current, but if only the poses weren't so generic...

Friday, July 31, 2009

Random Internet Discovery of the Week

Okay, this is a little creepy. Are you absolutely desperate to talk to a real person, you absolutely can't stand going through automated menus, even if it means having to talk in Spanish? This list is for you! If there are people so desperate that this list is useful to them, it makes me wonder why ANYone would have an automated menu...

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Baseball's image problem

Maury Brown is one of the most trusted online sports journalists - it seems demeaning to call him a "blogger" - for his Business of Sports Network, especially The Biz of Baseball. I felt moved to comment on a recent post examining 10 problems baseball faces in marketing its stars, mostly ones out of its control. I wouldn't ordinarily put it here, but I apparently ran up against a mysterious, unadvertised character limit, so here it is. This reads significantly different from a normal blog post because it originated as a comment, but nonetheless touches on residual racism, Doonesbury, ESPN (and the problems thereof), Jackie Robinson, Ball Four, Black Power, the Simpson trial, Barack Obama (race comes up a lot here doesn't it?), and just about everything surrounding the game of baseball today, big and small. I mostly wanted to get up my responses to Brown's second, third, and eighth concerns.
Now You See Me, Now You Don’t –. One of baseball’s biggest problems isn’t about efforts by the league or the MLBPA to market its players, but rather how the players move on and off camera. Consider: with the exception of pitchers, players are shown during their at bats (3-6 times a game), on the base paths, or when a ball is hit to them on defense. There is no sustained face time. Whereas in the NBA, a player may be on the court for most, if not all of an entire game, baseball’s stars are only seen in a limited fashion. Baseball’s dynamic makes showing star players on camera continually nearly impossible.
The whole "athlete face time" argument makes less sense in a post-ESPN era. Also, this is a problem that has always affected baseball and always will affect baseball, and it didn't seem to negatively affect the players of the past.
Lack of College Baseball Coverage – One of the biggest reasons the NFL and NBA does well in marketing their players has to do with young talent being covered on television while being part of NCAA Football or Basketball. For example, ESPN alone will show 300 college football games across their various platforms during the 2009 football season. Given that the transition from college to the pros for NFL and NBA players is a far shorter trek than most college baseball players that often times find themselves in development systems before ever making it to the majors, fans have been following many college football and basketball players for years before they enter the NFL or NBA. When you throw in that college baseball has only the College World Series as its national television platform, it’s difficult for MLB to market its young stars on the level that the NFL and NBA do
This has been a problem since cable TV and ESPN caught on, providing more college football and basketball coverage than ever before (that by far the biggest basketball stars to that point in the 80s were the two star players in the famous 1979 game that started the rise of March Madness is probably no accident), and didn't seem to hurt the 90s stars too much, but it may be changing. The ratings for the College World Series Finals were comparable to the Women's Final Four, suggesting ESPN should give it coverage comparable to women's basketball. Sure enough, the SEC conference championships will be shown on an ESPN network as part of the new SEC-ESPN agreement. Still, a lot of people jump straight from high school to the pros, and unlike in basketball, always have and in very large numbers, so more college baseball alone isn't enough.

But you point to what may be the real answer, which is that the minor leagues (especially AAA) really need (or at least deserve) a LOT more coverage. Basically, the extent of minor league coverage right now is the World-vs.-US game, the AAA all-star game, and the IL-vs.-PCL championship (not, to my knowledge, the individual league championships), all on ESPN2. Minor league teams tend to be in smaller markets but the smallest AAA market (Colorado Springs) is still top 100; the bigger problem is that players jump to MLB the instant they get good enough. College football and basketball have the fandom aspect as well as the "before they were pros" aspect, which the two problems I just mentioned make difficult; the best approach may be for major league teams' fans to also become fans of their AAA teams, which is made easier by the close proximity many of those teams have to their parent teams.

I think MLB Network is really dropping the ball on this one; the metaphor with the former NFL Europe and NBDL isn't really appropriate because of the different role each plays, but even NFL Network and NBATV respectively either had or have shown regular games from each, which MLBN isn't doing to my knowledge, and minor league baseball has a lot more tradition and a lot more central role!
Wall St. Ad Execs Yet to Tap Minority Stars – Baseball can rightfully say that it has the most player diversity starting in games than any other US pro sports league. Some of MLB’s biggest stars are Latinos or from the Far East. The problem is television ad execs have yet to see the full potential of such players. A good example is Albert Pujols, someone that should translate well to the camera, but has not been used as a pitchman. Others include Ichiro Suzuki and David Ortiz. In terms of Far East athletes, maybe ad execs figure Yao Ming is enough. As for the Latin players, it seems a vast demographic isn’t being fully tapped.
THIS IS COMPLETELY INDEFENSIBLE. Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods (I don't count Ali because he probably became too controversial after changing his name and especially dodging the draft) have shown black athletes can have crossover appeal to whites; I see no reason Latinos and Asians should be any different. Asians are especially mystifying to me since they're the richest non-white racial group.

What it'll probably take to change that is the Latino or Asian Jordan or Woods; on the Asian front, both Ichiro and Yao have suffered by being on mediocre teams instead of even contending for championships (Ichiro in 2001 aside, but even he didn't make the World Series). Pujols SHOULD be the Latino Jordan or Woods; he's dominant enough (and I think if he wins the Triple Crown and businesses don't leap all over him I'm just going to throw up my hands and give up) and has the rings (well, ring... well, he's won the NL, I forget how far he's really gotten). It's even less defensible because Oscar De La Hoya might actually be close to, if not a Latino Jordan or Woods, at least a Latino Shaq or Brady. Brown's fourth point is that baseball hasn't had a transcendent player like Jordan or Woods in this decade, with only Derek Jeter coming close and Barry Bonds derailed by steroids allegations. I'd hate to think the only reason Pujols isn't that player is latent racism. Fortunately, it probably isn't. See below.
“Tradition” vs “Flash” – From a younger demo perspective, baseball has lost its luster, in large part due to the ascension of Michael Jordan. Baseball is touted as having a “long and prestigious tradition” which doesn’t exactly compete well with the high-energy tempo of the NBA, NFL, and NHL. As one scribe wrote, baseball is a game of calm, punctuated by extreme action. That sounds great… if you’re older. In an era where kids are looking for ultra-stimulus, baseball’s pace is lost in translation. When 18-34s have the lion’s share of discretionary income, baseball isn’t the first stop for some corporations with a young demo appeal when looking to advertise.
Complaints about the game's pace are as old as the game itself; in fact there's an old Doonesbury from the 70s that makes that joke. This always ends up coming around in circles ("Well, football has short bursts of action too!"). I personally don't find balls and strikes boring, in part because you never know when it's going to result in action (and until I wrote this comment I hadn't thought to look here for the source of baseball's-too-slow complaints and found them completely mystifying). There is the new aspect here that today's youth has lower attention spans than ever before. (By the way, I'm only 21.)
Waiting For Barkley – In terms of studio shows surrounding games, baseball lags woefully behind most of its Big-4 counterparts. There is no “Howie” or “Terry”, or “Barkley”. FOX has dropped their pre-game show, which leaves TBS. And while Cal Ripken and Dennis Eckersley have made a go of it, they haven’t been able to exude the personality that other pre and post-game shows have had to offer. The solution, or at least an attempt at it? TBS has brought in David Wells.
This is the problem with ESPN in a nutshell. Sunday Night Baseball should feel really special each week and it really doesn't. ESPN should really think about getting a special crew for Baseball Tonight on Sunday nights and try and get some splash and dash there. (John Kruk? Please.) If it's needed to increase their motivation, maybe they should give up either the Monday/Wednesday games, or the Sunday night games, to another network like TBS. If the Sunday night games are the only games its network has, like with TNT and the NBA, they'll feel more special and there will be more motivation to put on an "Inside the NBA" type show.

TBS' Sunday Afternoon games are a joke and INCREDIBLY buried against NASCAR and golf, not to mention their own inconsistency of start time (really bad on the West Coast), picking behind ESPN, and TBS' lack of punctuality in announcing the games during the season. (I've gotten the impression TBS doesn't announce the game for flex weeks until the FRIDAY BEFORE IT'S PLAYED!) Don't look to that package to be a savior. As far as most baseball fans are concerned, it's Fox and ESPN all season and TBS comes out of nowhere during the postseason. When the contract comes up for renewal, either TBS will steal a package from ESPN or ESPN will take the postseason back from TBS.
Just Let Me Know When It Begins and Ends – Baseball finally got with the picture and realized that by putting World Series games on late Eastern Time, they were potentially losing a generation of baseball fans as kids hit the sack long before games would end. But, baseball’s a game that ends when it ends, as opposed to being controlled by the clock, that makes it difficult for fringe fans to get into when there are competing interests in hundreds of channels to switch to, and video games to play. Another issue that baseball faces – and only NASCAR seems to butt up against – has to due with delay of game due to weather. When a game starts, nothing kills your captive fan base off like a rain delay. Worse are games that are scheduled and postponed due to rain or snow. With families becoming intensely schedule driven, they want to know when the game is on, and when it ends.
How many games that don't go extra innings or are rain delayed last more than four hours? Again, this is a problem that always has and always will afflict baseball. While there are more demands on people's time than ever before, and extra-inning baseball games go longer than OT games in any sport save hockey, in order for this to be a marketability issue it would have to show up in the ratings.
MLB’s Image Problem – There’s the obvious (PED culture) and, the not so obvious (chewing tobacco) when it comes to baseball’s image. Would Manny Ramirez be more marketable if he hadn’t been suspended for PEDs? There’s a case to be made there. And, while it’s legal, few, if any, find a close up of a player with a mouthful of chaw spitting a stream of black tobacco drool appealing. Think Gillette would keep a player like Jeter in their ad campaigns if he chewed?
This is probably the big one. No one thinks Pujols is using steroids... but then, we said the same thing about Alex Rodriguez. MLB's only hope here is for other leagues (especially the NFL) to be similarly chastized for PEDs, but it's a bigger issue in purity-obsessed baseball than in musclebound, depraved, violence-driven football. The alternative? Well, the younger generation of fans (such as they are) don't seem as concerned about the whole thing... I doubt most people even notice baseball players chewing, and it's dumb enough that if baseball players basically refuse to stop chewing it points to deeper baseball-cultural issues that Brown doesn't go into here dating back to Ball Four.

Brown's ninth point is the idea that baseball is for old fogies, and I didn't have much to say about it. His last point ties back into the point of the white eyes in the halls of big business. Remember when I said that it's now proven that blacks can appeal to whites? This is why baseball isn't benefiting from that.
The Declining Interest By African-Americans in Baseball – Whether it has been the rise in the NBA’s popularity due to the Jordan factor; the continued diversity growth in international players; the fact that on average, players can jump to the professional ranks faster in the NBA and NFL, or other factors, there has been a steady decline in the number of African-Americans playing baseball. MLB, late in proactively dealing with this issue, has been pushing the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program, and working to highlight players such as Curtis Granderson in the latest This is Beyond Baseball ad campaign. But, the damage has been done, and now baseball is digging out from the hole.
Jackie Robinson was a big deal because baseball essentially ruled the sports landscape. But then the 60s and 70s happened, and by the 90s I don't know if black interest in basketball was caused by Jordan or created him - the biggest white superstar after Larry Bird and Bill Laimbeer, who won all their titles before Jordan's first, was John Stockton. (Certainly I don't see many blacks jumping to golf because of Tiger Woods. The stench of whiteness and richness still follows it.) Basketball has really colonized urban playgrounds, especially since it takes up less space than a baseball field.

And then you see what's happening in the South where great young black athletes in more rural areas are seeing college football as a better test of their skills than baseball, probably thanks in part to the tradition of the SEC compared to a lack of real stars (of any kind) created by the Braves during their TBS/AL East-winning heyday. Most black stars, like Ken Griffey Jr., Barry Bonds, or Ryan Howard, tend to go to northern, big markets (it's too bad Griffey was injury-plagued in Cincinatti; Seattle and Pittsburgh may not be that big, or exactly surrounded by urbanity, but they're far from the South where the rural blacks are). Even one of the Big Three markets with their large black populations wouldn't drag rural blacks away from football. (Another reason blacks aren't being drawn to golf after Tiger Woods: golf courses are best suited to rural areas, and the skill set of southern, rural blacks tends to involve speed and athleticism, while the only physical skill golf uses is strength.)

I suspect - though I doubt it's really been studied or floated that much by others - that during the Black Power movement baseball became associated with The Man, especially as the other major human sport of the time, boxing, saw a black icon (and a Black Power icon to boot) emerge in Muhammad Ali that insulated it from being overly associated with whites. (Football was similarly insulated by stars like Jim Brown and OJ Simpson. Basketball wasn't yet a major sport but it was already being colonized by blacks like Bill Russell, which I suspect led to it being claimed by, for lack of a better word, blackkind as their own. Baseball still had some black stars, but most of them were old fogies with Negro League experience, which probably netted them the Uncle Tom label; Frank Robinson is the only black star of the 70s that comes to mind. Spillover popularity from Ali gave rise to such dominant black fighters as Tyson and Holyfield during the 80s and 90s but boxing retreated to PPV, split into gazillions of different organizations, saw the dominant Tyson go batshit insane, and started dying a slow, painful death.)

Another problem might be that blacks don't just blindly support their own the way whites got to thinking during the Simpson trial, and decided to distance themselves from the way Bonds handled the steroid allegations. (I'm sure some, perhaps many if not most, supported him, but was it really inspiring new people to enter that quagmire?) Which really brings us back to the whole steroids issue.

In my view, baseball's problems have less to do with the structural issues that haven't really gone away, and MUCH more to do with the steroids scandal. It may be a problem mostly with the old fogies, but it's the old fogies in charge on Madison Avenue. If they won't get with the program, and the image problem caused by PEDs is as hard to shake with them as it appears, baseball's only hope for becoming "hip" again may lie in Barack Obama's White Sox fandom... pray for a White Sox-Cardinals World Series?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

My (belated) thoughts on the Erin Andrews Peep Show

I hate the sports blogosphere's obsession with Erin Andrews. I think it's cheap and trashy and shows an objectification of women and that Andrews doesn't even look that great.

But guys, stand firm on your principles.

I've heard that several sports bloggers have called out the rest of the blogosphere for hypocrisy for criticizing the "EAPS" while making much of their traffic off pictures of Andrews.

I don't have a problem with making a distinction between an "acceptable" form of leering and "unacceptable" forms. That's probably going to be the second thing in a month that makes me run the risk of being flamed by feminists, but the fact is that men leering at hot chicks is as old as time, as is limits on it. That distinction, really, is everywhere in our society. As far as I'm concerned you can do whatever you want on the "right" side of the line as long as you stay on the "right" side of the line.

In fact, I'm going to go further. If I were in the position of a sports blogger who liked posting pictures of Erin Andrews, I would not have come to the sudden, shocking (SHOCKING) realization that this is WRONG and pulled back on the EA exploitation like, say, Fang's Bites did. No, I'd keep up the EA parade at the same pace I always did.

If you're going to decide it's wrong to exploit male lust for hot chicks for hits, regardless of whether or not the object is okay with it as Andrews has been, then be consistent with it and maintain the policy all along. (As I do. I prefer my site to be porn for the mind. Hey, maybe that'll be my tagline when the site relaunches: "Porn for the Mind". I'll get more hits than I otherwise would, certainly. Eh, maybe I'll stick with "Ideas every day". Even though I don't post every day.) But you can object to Andrews being exploited in the wrong way and still continue to exploit her in the right way if you feel it's okay. (Not that I'm precluding a legitimate change of heart here, of course.) All you have to do is make clear that you and your readers know where the line is and not to cross it.

Random Internet Discovery of the Week

In what may be my last (real) post before the reboot, I bring you... South Park.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

@trent_reznor's plan for turning indie music into webcomics!

New label time. I once had fantasies of becoming a musician, but I can't come up with an original beat to save my life, my voice sounds horrible recorded, and, like most of my fantasies, I liked the fame and impact more than I liked the actual, you know, work. Certainly I might have never had a chance to break out within a year of recording a short demo tape like I fantasized, at least not without getting a gig on American Idol, and I'd probably be the guy you laughed at on the audition shows anyway.

But that fantasy is at least a little closer to the reach of musicians today, thanks to that great invention that will define the next millennium or at least the next century, the Internet. Which brings me to Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor's thoughts on how aspiring musicians can take advantage of the Internet to break in to at least a limited extent.

Trent's advice in a nutshell: Forget about making any money off your records. Give it all away for free. Put your music on iTunes just to get the iTunes audience, but base your revenue model off selling tchotshkes like T-shirts and other premium content. Basically, the typical webcomics model.

Huh? Evidently Reznor needs to be introduced to Scott McCloud's 2001 theory that all the music industry needed to do was lower prices to the point that it would become too inconvenient to pirate to justify the savings. In other words, it's not strictly necessary to give everything away for free, just really, really cheap. "Ah, but that was just McCloud's attempt to justify his micropayments obsession..." Really? Then why did Xaviar Xerexes recently espouse essentially the same philosophy without noticing it even when I pointed it out to him? Besides, while micropayments have by and large been a complete failure, music in the form of iTunes has been one of the few places where it's worked.

Look, I know a lot of people don't like iTunes for loading down its music with DRM, but that just means there's an opening in the market for someone to come along and try and create an iTunes killer that sells music at iTunes prices or maybe even slightly higher but without DRM. Take a YouTube-like zeal to wiping out pirated music and you just might create a service that, eventually, one of the big boys decides they should move to to reach out to the people who have run away from iTunes to get a DRM-free experience. In the meantime it becomes the hub for music that hasn't sold out to The Man - and those musicians get to make at least a trickle of money off the music itself. Is the lower exposure worth it? I don't know, but I'm sure it is for some.

I don't like the notion of webcomiceers as glorified T-shirt salesmen and I'm not any more happy with the same notion as applied to indie rockers. The difference is, in the latter case, it's not necessary.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Random Internet Discovery of the Week

I'm late on this RID and I didn't get any votes on the Da Blog Poll anyway, so I'm extending the poll another week. Here are the topics I'm currently subscribed to, and which I would tentatively remain subscribed to if the poll decides I should pick the topics myself (I don't know what a lot of these entail). I tried to pick as broad a cross-section as possible while also appealing to my own interests and trying to stick to the topic poll on the front page of the web site.

  • American History
  • Arts
  • Classical Studies
  • Dancing
  • Ethics
  • Fine Arts
  • History
  • Humanities
  • Live Theatre
  • Logic
  • Performing Arts
  • Philosophy
  • Business
  • Capitalism
  • Consumer Info
  • Computer Hardware
  • Computers
  • Cyberculture
  • Internet
  • Internet Tools
  • Multimedia
  • Online Games
  • Software
  • StumbleUpon
  • Video Games
  • Web Development
  • Weblogs
  • Health/Fitness
  • Medical Science
  • Self Improvement
  • Board Games
  • Card Games
  • Chess
  • Collecting
  • Humor
  • Poker
  • Roleplaying Games
  • Satire
  • Family
  • Food/Cooking
  • Kids
  • Married Life
  • Parenting
  • Pregnancy/Birth
  • Teen Life
  • Alternative News
  • Animation
  • Books
  • Comic Books
  • Fantasy Books
  • Journalism
  • Poetry
  • Radio Broadcasts
  • Science Fiction
  • Shakespeare
  • Television
  • Writing
  • Classic Films
  • Music
  • Movies
  • Agriculture
  • Animals
  • Nature
  • Outdoors
  • USA
  • Athiest-Agnostic
  • Religion
  • Spirituality
  • Alternative Energy
  • Anthropology
  • Astronomy
  • Aviation/Aerospace
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Civil Engineering
  • Cognitive Science
  • Ecology
  • Economics
  • Environment
  • Gadgets
  • Geography
  • Geoscience
  • Linguistics
  • Mathematics
  • Meteorology
  • Physics
  • Physiology
  • Political Science
  • Psychology
  • Science/Tech
  • Sociology
  • Space Exploration
  • Trains/Railroads
  • Transportation
  • Activism
  • Anarchism
  • Biographies
  • Career Planning
  • Communism
  • Conservative Politics
  • Counterculture
  • Culture/Ethnicity
  • Dating Tips
  • Feminism
  • Government
  • Hedonism
  • Int'l Development
  • Law
  • Liberal Politics
  • Liberties/Rights
  • Men's Issues
  • Military
  • News (General)
  • Personal Sites
  • Politics
  • Socialism
  • University/College
  • American Football
  • Baseball
  • Basketball
  • Golf
  • Hockey
  • Martial Arts
  • Motor Sports
  • Soccer
  • Sports (General)
  • Tennis
This excludes a pretty significant number of topics that had been on before, despite the overall increase in topics, and most of them were not even considered for the new list. Just so you know how dire the situation was.

Of course, if the alternative is an ad-overloaded page trying to further or start an internet meme, I'm not sure it's much of an improvement...

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Why Title IX is hopelessly broken in brief: the post that will get me flamed by (some) feminists forever

Title IX was never intended to be the protector of women's sports. It was intended to ensure women's access to all education and educational services. But thanks in part to myopic administrators, its identity has become entirely consumed with college sports, and a misreading of the law (not only did the law not refer to athletics it begins with "no person...") has led to even well-meaning regulators becoming misguided - the modern interpretation of the law obsesses over how much sports schools offer in proportion to the student population, and - in part to schools today having a gender imbalance in favor of females, and the lack of female football programs when football teams are massive compared to other sports - actually calls for, if one gender must have more sports than the other, that gender being the female.

This is totally bass-ackwards.

If a girl wants to play lacrosse, let her play lacrosse, assuming she can find enough other girls to field a team. But bringing bureaucracy into the mix and enforcing insane hard limits and reverse discrimination not only misses the point of the law, it misses the point of sports.

Sports is rooted in the spirit of competition: in beating the other guy to achieve dominance. It's a modern expression of our ancestors fighting each other to woo the women. It's an inherently male institution; in some sense, there are not only cultural but biological reasons for women to have less interest in sports. Women are, generally, more interested in cooperation than competition; when women do turn against one another, it tends to take more subtle, less physical forms. (It is shocking to me that two of the three most popular female sports in this country, golf and tennis, are individual rather than team sports. Then again, golf doesn't involve direct competition and the appeal of women's tennis isn't in the game.)

Part of the problem is deeper, of course, and points at the bureaucratization of society...

Truly, the end of an era. Hopefully, not of the earth.

If I'm going to give my critical thinking skills a workout, I need to give my critical thinking skills a workout. And since I hope to do a lot of thinking over the course of my life, this should be an important and positive excersize for me. So you know what? I don't care anymore that no one's pitching in at the Global Warming Open Thread, or e-mailing me with their arguments. It's going to be a bit more work for me, but it's work I probably should do. ... It'll be a more fulfilling experience for me, building skills I'll need to do more of these series in the future, perhaps even skills that will prove useful for snagging a real job or at least doing well in college. ... If there's a downside, I might not have as much information as I'd like if it doesn't pop up right away in Google, and I want as complete a picture as possible for this heady issue. But I think it's worth the risk from a personal growth point of view, and I hope you're all along for the ride.
-Me, in April
Do me a favor: Next time I say something like this, give me a good smack upside the head.

Seriously, I actually thought this would be a "personal growth" experience instead of my own personal hell?

I've been in a bit of a schedule crunch for the past few months, with a lot of stuff on my plate and some of my school studies starting to suffer a bit. The worst part, and the part that I think has been dragging me slowly insane, has been the global warming series. You may have gleaned some evidence of this from the increasing lateness of the strip (seriously, I posted the strip at 7 PM PT yesterday?) and from some of my Twitter posts, but I haven't been in the mood to do research for the series as much as I've needed since entering the second phase. Research for the series started out as not too bad if time-consuming and sometimes shied away from, but it has since become an obligation I really haven't wanted to do, a job I tack on as an afterthought after doing everything else, especially since starting my recent summer class. I told myself, as was hinted in a recent strip, I had to maintain a daily schedule to finish the series as fast as possible, but for most of the second phase I've rarely worked more than one strip in advance.

What's more, the sheer weight of the research required has started to wear on my brain. You've seen me start to give a more pro-global-warming bias than I ever intended to give, failing to properly explore arguments, and breaking them off prematurely - or over-relying on waiting strips that move the argument precisely zilch, often essentially repeating prior arguments. This series hasn't "given my critical thinking skills a workout", it's worn them down to nothing.

All that might be excusable if I had touched off the open debate I hoped to start, or attracted the people I hoped to attract to Sandsday to explore the debate for themselves as I present it. But not only has none of that happened, readership has actually gone down compared to the preceding video game strips. Previously the strip, according to Project Wonderful stats, averaged about five page views a day; right now I'm lucky to get two. The Sandsday ad box has actually been delisted, something that never happened before - suspended for no one loading the box, but not out-and-out delisted for poor performance.

So all that leads to the development at least hinted at in today's strip: I am suspending - not aborting - the global warming series for about three weeks, maybe four. During that time we'll go back to the sort of strips that characterized Sandsday before the series began, that is to say, video game strips. Afterwards, the series will start up again. However, once the series starts up again I will not hold myself to a daily schedule, but will instead do research when I feel like it and release strips accordingly. There may be long swathes without any strips at all, or periods where a lot of strips are released, one a day for weeks. I will allow the series to play out more organically and naturally from here on out until it reaches a conclusion. Once the series reaches an end I will end Sandsday right then and there with my final verdict. I've considered ending the strip before - at one point I was considering ending it at #500 - but the inability of the global warming series to increase readership and its increasing job-like nature have convinced me that I probably will never get the readership I'd hoped for and probably will never find the strip as enjoyable as I would need to to continue with it.

Sandsday will not be the last comic I do, not even the last webcomic; I have at least two other ideas I'd like to bring down the pipeline, although they almost certainly won't be ready before the site relaunch. I still stand by the basic gimmick of the strip even if I was not able to utilize its potential in the way I had hoped for, and I feel like I've tarnished the gimmick in some way by working on it myself instead of leaving it for other, more talented writers to pick up. I would like Sandsday to go down as an experiment that I used to help build my writing abilities by getting in over 500 reps over a period of nearly (if not over) two years. I've gotten some appreciative comments about the strip; I have also gotten some comments that have told me to, essentially, get some art lessons and abandon this hopeless carcass. Through it all, I maintained a streak of consecutive days with a strip that will run to over 550 by the time I start dropping strips. I don't take the decision to end the strip lightly, but I trust that with the time I'm freeing up by ending the strip, there will be more and better stuff to come into the Morgan Wick Online Universe that will make up for the loss.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

I'm sure the only reason the pigs aren't airborne is because it's heavy overcast.

Day 94 of the BottomLine watch. Over three months since an ESPN spokesperson told Sports Media Watch the new BottomLine would be back "soon". I'm starting to think it may not come back at all, or at the very least it'll probably be another six months...

...what's that? What's that thing at the bottom of the screen? The... the new BottomLine is back! I knew it was only a matter of time! Naturally I have some thoughts:
  • When the BottomLine first disappeared I gave a list of some things that maybe they were adjusting it for. It certainly appears it now has "SCORE ALERT" functionality, but it also has a bunch of graphic spiffiness involving the divider between the score and stats - which, while I liked the shrinking of the score, if adopting that functionality is part of the reason the return of the BottomLine took so long, they need to take another look at their priorities.
  • Looks like ESPN2 isn't losing the last vestiges of its identity after all, as the ESPN2 BottomLine still says "ESPN2", albeit because my SD TV has problems with centering (or that could just be my cable box) it's partly cut off. They're clearly locating both logos differently vis-a-vis the right side of the screen (and each other) compared to the old BottomLine.
  • It appears that, regardless of program, it's simply "ESPN BottomLine" except on SportsCenter. Granted, I only noticed the change on Jim Rome Is Burning, Around The Horn, and PTI, not on studio shows like NFL Live and Baseball Tonight.
  • Why is it, say, "RANGERS VS ORIOLES" for baseball when a game hasn't started yet, but for, say, the Gold Cup, it's "USA" and "HONDURAS" in separate boxes as though showing the score, as in the old BottomLine? If it's to condense the display to show when a game is on an ESPN network and 360, why is it condensed for the other baseball games, and why isn't it condensed for soccer? Personally I prefer the separate-boxes approach, the other way is just gimmicky...
While we're here, let's take a look at other developments in the world of sports graphics:

Remember when Versus introduced a new banner at the NHL Conference Semifinals? Well, for the Conference Finals, and continuing through its Stanley Cup Finals games, Versus changed its banner. Again. So, which was the banner they originally intended to adopt for the long haul? Was the change a response to people's criticism of the old banner, or was the old banner always a placeholder until the new one was ready and they were too embarrassed about the previous banner to wait?

Or is this the placeholder while Versus updates the other graphics? Because if there's one thing that marks this graphic, it's the return of the old fonts. Beyond that, the main features are the addition of black-on-white boxes for the period number and time left in the period.

Meanwhile, it's official: the gray, two-line box is becoming a trend. Fox adopted it not only for FSN, but for its own baseball broadcasts as well, and ESPN turned it into a strip; now TBS has joined in on the fun. But TBS seems to be insanely protective of its video; not only can't I find any video of the new TBS box online that I can embed, ESPN and other outlets (even!) use local feeds for their highlights of TBS games (which means there aren't even any highlights I can't embed). But they can't shake this forever, and you will see a full analysis of the TBS box come this October.

In tennis, ESPN moved the banner it introduced at the Australian Open to the top of the screen at the French for some reason. Somehow I think that wasn't the only change; the strip seems bigger for some reason. Whatever it is, it seems more amateur.

At Wimbledon, however, perhaps as a result of realizing that the banner was potentially confusing and maybe even in preparation of transitioning tennis onto the new MNF-styled banner, ESPN rolled out a small, compact box, but kept the "scoreboard" aspect of, among other things, showing deuce as 40-40 by placing the points alongside the game count and abandoning server-first order entirely (again). It's a big improvement over the Australian/French banner in my opinion, one of the better tennis graphics ESPN has yet tried that isn't a carbon copy of the norm in this country.

It appears ESPN took one lesson from the world feed, but not the one I suggested last year upon seeing their abomination of a Wimbledon graphic - the points display here is similar to that used by the world feed. All that's left is showing number of sets instead of score of sets and abbreviating last names! Okay, not so much...

Random Internet Discovery of the Week

I'm linking to this even though I'm not sure how useful it would be (I use an Excel spreadsheet as a "checkbook" of sorts) and I'm announcing right now that this will be the last RID under the status quo. That sort of violates the Da Blog Poll, on which the only vote I received was the one I was least a fan of - "leave it as is" - but that's no longer an option.

StumbleUpon has either radically broadened the choice of categories to the point that it now requires categorization of the categories, or has merely broadened the choice of categories available to me. There is a cap of 127 categories, and there are far more categories than that to choose from. The previous thesis of the Random Internet Discovery was that I was opening your horizons to stuff from every category.

If the RID is to continue, it will have to involve some sort of cap on topics, some form of selectiveness. I'd really rather not have my topics determined by the fact I was subscribed to them before getting a broadening of my options. That's practically the same as having them determined at random. So I'm reopening the Da Blog Poll I conducted when the RID was just beginning. Selecting all the topics is not an option, so the question simply asks whether I should select the topics myself, poll you, discontinue the RID, or something else. (If I was scared at a potential 78-topic poll a year ago, imagine the chaos that would ensue with hundreds of topics! That may have to be a comment thread, not a poll!) The poll will run for two weeks and the topics will be self-selected next week, along with a list of the topics I would select.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Hilarity in cereal tie-ins.

So today I finish off a box of Frosted Mini-Wheats and I happen to notice the giveaway on the back of the box.

As a tie-in for the Star Trek movie, it allows you to send in for a "Starfleet T-shirt" so you can look like you're on the Starship Enterprise. The shirts are available in blue or red.

"For just nine tokens, or one token plus $9.99, you can own the original red shirt! Wait, where are you going? How come we're selling out in blue but haven't sold a single one in red?"

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Draft Image Upload seems to be back in proper working order, at least in Chrome, not that it'll help Blogger that much.

(From The Order of the Stick. Click for full-sized harmless moments.)

This post is really an excuse to talk about the two prior strips. After all, I've been sorely remiss in not posting on #665, which at long last returned Roy to the land of the living. Not only did Roy originally die in #443, meaning the ostensible main character was dead for a third of the strip's entire existence, but as someone on the forum pointed out, Roy originally died over two years ago, when Da Blog only had a score of posts and I was only recently removed from the residence halls at school. That's only a little more than six months after my original User Friendly archive binge.

Not only that, but with Roy's resurrection and the deus ex machina that returned de-spliced-V to the OOTS, we have reached a state some people probably thought we'd never reach again: the entire OOTS is in one piece and unencumbered by any sort of weird temporary effects, whether negative (Belkar's Mark of Justice, Roy's death) or positive (spliced V). The last time we could say that about the OOTS was right before Haley started speaking in cryptograms, and the incident that caused that was back in #245, meaning a good 63.2% of the strip's existence to this point (nearly two thirds) has been spent with the OOTS dealing with some issue of some sort. It seems almost inevitable that another such issue will crop up soon (albeit in the next book and probably not until the next gate), and the chances are it'll be something fairly permanent (especially given all the death prophecies floating around out there), meaning this brief respite of a whole OOTS changed only in character development from the dungeon crawling group (well, and the presence of Celia) almost seems to be something of a plot hole.

Speaking of death prophecies, re-reading some of my original comments on Belkar's faux-character-development has given me something of a new perspective on strip #666, and an incident in there that tells me I wasn't far off in my reading of the situation: Haley's skepticism about Belkar's new "team spirit". Recall what I said in my original post:
Nudge die rolls, palm cards, "forget" penalties... but you have to sit down to play first. As long as the people at the table see a fellow player across from them, they'll tolerate you. A crooked player is a pain in the ass, but someone who refuses to play at all makes them start questioning their own lives - and people HATE to think. They'd rather lose to a cheater than dwell too long on why they're playing in the first place.
The apparent implication of this speech is that it doesn't even matter if the other players know Belkar is cheating, so long as he plays at all. It's entirely possible that Belkar could continue to be the same stabby, backstabbing jerk he's always been, so long as he gives a rat's ass about what everyone else is doing, and doesn't display a willful ignorance of the rules.
However, I also said that Belkar didn't seem to interpret it this way: he seems to interpret it as meaning that he needs to follow the same moral framework as the rest of the OOTS, whereas I felt he only needed to know what it was. He could be a "team player" without sacrificing one ounce of his personality. Regardless, the effect is the same in more ways than one: sure enough, Haley and Roy know damn well what Belkar is doing (if not the details of it)... but the reason they're not doing anything about it isn't the same reason that Shojo provided. Sure, they appreciate having a "team player" Belkar, but if it were as simple as that they'd probably still keep Belkar on a short leash; they know that Belkar can't do much given the short amount of time he has left.

As for Vaarsuvius... as it turns out, she learns two lessons in one in this strip (which practically begs for Belkar to call out its weepy sentimentality regardless of whether or not it deserves it). The one she's already learned is the lesson regarding blunt force; but while she's already learned about doing small things, Durkon now teaches her about accomplishing small things, regardless of whether they were done in anger (teleporting the fleet) or desperation (saving O-Chul). The first lesson involves a potential future change in strategy for V; the second means she might whine less when confronted by a sidequest or a seeming failure (or at least might decide to do something different when confronted with a situation as hopeless as this).

(Hmm. One: for some reason, the Heal removed the bags around V's eyes that have been present, except during the splice, for the entire book. Okay, I can chalk that up to the "rejuvenating effects of the splice", but I still wonder about long-term implications. Two: did V just use her tiara or head-ring or whatever it is to put her hair into a ponytail instead of supporting her old style without explanation? Huh? Well, it makes me more convinced than ever V's a she at least...)

Random Internet Discovery of the Week

Okay, right as I'm moved to ditch the RID entirely, I finally find something worth commenting on. Because this is pretty much pseudoscience.

First of all, I kind of doubt the underlying idea that cravings for certain types of food are really cravings for the things those foods contain. Especially when one of the claims is that if you've got a hankering for alcohol or drugs, it's not because you have an addiction to the drugs themselves; you just need to find alternate sources of protein, calcium, and potassium! (Similarly, if you've got a hankering for tobacco, it's not nicotine you're craving, but silicon and tyrosine!) Second, that's just one example of these people providing one thing and then a laundry list of things you might really be craving instead to the extent you wonder "Wouldn't it be easier to give in to the craving and not have to pick one thing from column A and one from column B?"

Oh, and "bread" or "toast"? These people really believe in the Atkins diet and other low-carb diets, don't they? Then again, they think "cool drinks" are a sign you need manganese and should gorge on things like walnuts instead of a sign you need, oh I don't know, hydration or, say, to cool off...

Speaking of hydration, if you have a preference for liquids rather than solids, what you need is water (and you should get it from flavored water? WTF?). On the other hand, if you have a preference for solids rather than liquids, you also need water because you're so dehydrated you've lost your thirst!

Then again, it's all coming from a naturopathy site preaching one guy's back-to-nature New Age crap, so maybe I shouldn't be surprised at the misinformation... (No, wait, it's the mainstream that's peddling misinformation! It all makes sense now!)

This isn't about the past. This is about the future.

One year ago last week, I began doing webcomic reviews on Da Blog.

Recently, I've been having a crisis of confidence about the whole enterprise.

This should be obvious enough to anyone who read my 8-Bit Theater review. Quite frankly, I completely stalled while writing it. I found myself trapped in a place where I couldn't say much more than "It's a webcomic, and it's not Order of the Stick. Um... it loves non-sequitur. Um... it... structures its updates well. Um... I got nothin'." Roger Ebert (or even Eric Burns(-White)) I'm not.

Now, maybe that's just a symptom of how dull and repetitive 8BT is. But 8BT really just put into focus a trend that's been dogging me for some time. Quite frankly, I'm not entirely sure what my audience is or what it should be. Am I writing for the average person to let them know what's good in webcomics? Or am I writing for Aspiring Webcomickers Everywhere to identify what certain webcomics get right and wrong?

It shouldn't be that difficult to do the former - is a webcomic entertaining and captivating? But not only is the answer to that question dependent on each person's tastes, it's actually a lower bar than a lot of people give it credit for. People in English courses and otherwise preoccupied with deconstructing every layer of meaning out of a story will find things to object to in strips like Ctrl+Alt+Del by nitpicking every ounce of it. But to be honest, most people don't care about all that. All they care about is that it's funny. As long as a comic meets the relatively low bar that it be entertaining (for a humor strip) or addictive (for a strip with continuity), it's probably going to attract an audience. I really don't need to say much more than answer those two questions for you to know whether or not you'll want to follow a given strip. (This is where I keep trying to condense the size of my reviews, yet I keep feeling they're too short.) This may explain some of the popularity of Twilight despite geeks hating it with a passion: it's really a romance novel and no better or worse than any other romance novel, but because it happens to have vampires it attracted geeks who expected a sci-fi story and held it to a standard it should never have been expected to be held to.

(Note that Ctrl+Alt+Del, at the moment, is starting to turn even me off. Yes, of course it's a good idea to give Zeke a mate! It's not like that's a hokey, boring stock plot for man-made life going back to the original novel of Frankenstein! What's that? Why aren't you making a she-Zeke (only now you are)? Of course, it's because Zeke owes his sentience to a myste-e-e-e-erious X-factor that can't be easily duplicated! Because that's completely original and not at all hokey and boring itself, and certainly not a lame attempt to jack up the melodrama you'll probably bust through and give us a she-Zeke anyway! On the plus side, at least we have the beginnings of an explanation for why Zeke could be created by freakin' Ethan...)

A lot of my reviews have been written with an eye towards teasing out the differences between webcomics and other art forms, and with no small eye towards what lessons I myself can learn as an aspiring webcomicker. My reviews have typically been written with this as a base: am I continuing to read this comic going forward, and why or why not? But answering the latter question tends to lead me to present the answers as things that other webcomics can follow.

I don't do a lot of saying, "This webcomic is good and here's why you should read it". I honestly can't answer the latter question. I can only say, "Just read it, I found it good." (CAD is a good example; I started reading it because I found it entertaining - and you can't really explain what makes a joke funny - and addictive, which basically translates to, "I want to find out where it goes from here," regardless of what "it" is.) What I teased out as the reasons why tends to be technical stuff that would bore the average reader and says little about the content of the comic, and is more suited towards Aspiring Webcomickers Everywhere, so I end up saying, "This webcomic is good and here's what they're doing that you should be too." At least one other webcomic review blog embraced this whole-hog and frames its reviews as the answer to a question: "What did I learn?" I'm not convinced, though, that this is the best way to review webcomics, or anything.

I think I need to go back to my heady early days when David Morgan-Mar was praising me for my review of Darths and Droids, and even six months ago when Robert A. Howard was praising me for my review of Tangents. If you read my Darths and Droids or original OOTS reviews, you see that a key element of the former is a deconstruction of the key elements of the strip, attempting to tease out exactly what it is that makes it tick (a similar element to what made my Tangents review stand out, in fact - I think my review of the Floating Lightbulb might be my best review in a while for this same reason). It's almost a "just the facts, ma'am" approach to reviewing webcomics, as long as it's also balanced with an attempt to find out whether or not I like it, and if it's popular, trying to find out why that is (indeed my original OOTS review is little more than straight description). I took my original inspiration from Websnark and it's the Websnark model I need to at least try to return to.

I think my real problem comes when I try to review something I don't like. I've said this in the past, but I don't like making an impact on anything, and whenever people seem to think I want them to change their sites they often belligerently respond with variants of "it's MY site and I can do what I want". (This is one reason why my Tangents review seemed to go horribly wrong after Robert A. Howard himself showed up - even when he took me seriously it freaked me out a little bit.) One of, in my opinion, my better reviews is my Dresden Codak review (which I think did a better job than the similarly negative, but more disconnected, 8BT review - I probably should have re-read my DC review once I decided to make my 8BT one negative), which broke down everything that I saw as going wrong with the strip. Does that mean I want Aaron Diaz to change any of it? Not necessarily. If that's the way he wants to take the strip that's the way he wants to take the strip. I'm merely reporting on what I see as wrong with it, for the benefit of shoppers who are considering adding to their webcomic plate (or starting one). But even in that review, there's an element of "what did I learn?" in there, trying to take lessons from Dresden Codak and apply them to webcomics in general.

Part of the difference is that originally, and lasting all the way through my post on art in webcomics, the general statements I was making were directed towards the webcomic community. But as I had run-ins with Robert A. Howard, and (in February) with David Morgan-Mar over a slow patch in Darths and Droids (the latter of which I'm not sure will subside until Attack of the Clones does), I needed to defend the negative statements I was making towards webcomics that I didn't actually expect any action on, and I decided I was really writing for Aspiring Webcomickers Everywhere to help them avoid the pitfalls. If I'd reread my Dresden Codak review I'd have seen that sometimes the problems are just too endemic to fix, and I wasn't always making negative statements to help anyone "avoid pitfalls" at all. I need to restate my mission: I'm writing reviews to deconstruct a webcomic's elements to determine whether or not I like a given webcomic and why, with an eye to observe a webcomic in motion and with an audience of potential webcomic readers first and the webcomic community second, with maybe a tertiary audience of Aspiring Webcomickers Everywhere.

But first I need to rest my brain from the heavy work I've been putting it through, especially given the class I'm in at the moment and the paucity of work I've done for it. So it's likely that - with the exception of a post when the current book of OOTS ends - there will be no more webcomic posts until late July at the earliest. I'm hopeful that with this re-examination I can return to my roots and create webcomic reviews more on par with what I've written in the past. I may even re-review some comics I've given subpar reviews to, though that's likely more of a long-term project. (For me to give a more meaty review of Girl Genius than the one I originally gave, for example, I'd probably need to go on a fairly lengthy archive binge.)

By the time I do return to webcomic posts, though, it will be a rebirth of sorts in more ways than one, because in all likelihood I should have completed a relaunch of Da Blog and the web site, which could be perhaps the most major development to come to either before or since, finally taking Da Blog and the website off of Blogger and Freehostia. (Not that my new file manager completely fixes all the problems I had with Freehostia's.) One development that will result from this will be the merger of Da Blog with the web site, allowing all my major online presence (outside Twitter) to be housed under one address and one banner title, instead of awkward names like the Morgan Wick Online Universe or the Morgan Wick Sites.

I don't intend to give away too much right now, but one reason this relaunch hasn't occurred already is because I intend to blow up some of my more common labels into full-fledged sub-sites (and the software I'd need for that isn't as up-to-date as I'd like). For example, my sports posts should be merged with the Morgan Wick Sports section of the site. As a result, my webcomics posts will become an entire site of their own (still connected to Da Blog though), with the potential for a comparable level of support material you might not necessarily expect from a blog alone. So I'd like to ask you: what would you like from a webcomics review site? I definitely hope to include an index to my reviews to aid in finding them, and maybe links to better organize access to the Webcomics' Identity Crisis series, but what else might I include to take advantage of having an entire site devoted to webcomics as opposed to a blog, even a glorified one?

By way of analogy, I could look at the web site of a movie reviewer, such as Roger Ebert's site. That site contains reviews (obviously); the Answer Man column, answering people's questions about the movies, which might not be terribly portable to webcomics, which I wouldn't be qualified for because I don't read that many webcomics consistently, and which would be more of a blog feature anyway; the Great Movies columns, which might manifest into a list of links to the good webcomics and webcomic blogs; the Movie Glossary, but we already have TV Tropes, though a guide to some of the terms I use might still be useful, akin to Eric Burns(-White)'s own glossary; "people", a home to some biographical vignettes, suggesting it might be useful to help tell, say, Phil Foglio apart from Tim Buckley apart from Rich Burlew and Randall Munroe and David Morgan-Mar and Ryan North and Tom Slidell and Jerry Krahulik and Mike Holkins and Scott Kurtz, though that might be a lot of work for little gain (and again, might be more of a blog feature pending the execution)...

...the blog of someone not named Roger Ebert for some reason; "commentary", not always by Ebert himself or about movies, and probably close in concept to Da Blog itself; guides to film festivals and the Oscars, the former of which isn't completely applicable (concepts like Zuda perhaps?) and both of which are more appropriate to blog posts (though things like sub-indices might be appropriate); "editor's notes" that are basically comments by the author of the aforementioned blog; "one-minute" (short) reviews; and the equivalent of "letters to the editor". There's also places to search the review archive and get movie times and tickets (again not applicable). Are there any things I could add to a new webcomic review site other than straight-up lists of links? What do you think?

Whatever comes of it, let us plow forward into the second year of my webcomic reviews... and hope it comes out better than the second half of the first.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The people you meet when you Twitter.

I know, I know, follower counts are really meaningless, but it's still exciting to see my follower count rise over 60. Yes, some of them are spammer accounts, and some are semi-automated accounts that automatically follow anyone who follows them, but there are still enough legit ones that I suspect quite a few of them, maybe even the majority, have to be reading me on Twitter but not Da Blog. (Not that I've made things easier with my paucity of posts recently. We'll see what the effect of this post is, though.)

But I'm not sure about some of these followers, who seem to automatically follow anyone who happens to mention a certain key word relevant to them.

Okay, I can understand AspergerKids and TMS01 following me after I mentioned Asperger's in a recent tweet. I actually happen to have Asperger's, so the connection is logical there. But... what the hell is up with GHuntersFansite following me after I said Cartoon Network was starting a Ghost Hunters ripoff? If there's one thing I'm not into, it's that sort of claptrap.

I'm not sure whether I hate it for its dishonesty, or whether I love it for the sheer irony of it...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Random Internet Discovery of the Week

Is it a bad sign when (I believe) two consecutive posts are spent on the RID?

Is it also a bad sign that I couldn't think of anything else to say about this?

Save the RID, please! If the current results hold - they're currently for maintaining the status quo - I think this may be the very last RID ever.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Random Internet Discovery of the Week

It'd be nice if this told you what it is before throwing you into it.

The current RID poll is likely to end on Monday regardless of when it says it's going to end, simply because the changes that will happen to Da Blog then are too major.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Say hello to the NBO!

Since the bowl contracts are coming up for renewal, here are my thoughts on a potential new bowl order. I haven't associated any of these with bowls, just idle thoughts. Mostly based on my college football rankings and bowl-eligible teams last two years.

  • SEC #2 v. Big 10 #2
  • Pac-10 #2 v. Big 12 #2
  • ACC #2 v. Big East #2/Notre Dame
  • SEC #3/4 v. Big 12 #3
  • SEC #3/4 v. Big 10 #3
  • Big 12 #4 or Big 10 #4 v. Big East #3/Notre Dame
  • SEC #5 v. ACC #3
  • Pac-10 #3 v. MWC #1
  • Big 10 #4 or Big 12 #4 v. ACC #4
  • Big 10 #5 v. Big 12 #5
  • MWC #2 v. WAC #1
  • C-USA #1 v. ACC #4
  • Big 10 #6 v. MAC #1
  • ACC #5 v. Big East #4
  • Big 12 #6 v. ACC #6
  • SEC #6 v. Pac-10 #4
  • SEC #7 v. ACC #7
  • ACC #8 v. C-USA #2
  • Pac-10 #5 v. WAC #2
  • C-USA #3 v. Navy
  • MWC #3 v. WAC #3
  • WAC #4 v. MAC #2
  • MWC #4 v. C-USA #4
  • C-USA #5 v. Sun Belt #1
  • MWC #5 v. MAC #3
  • MAC #4 v. Sun Belt #2
  • C-USA #6 v. Sun Belt #3 or Army

Let's play "What is Tom Hansen talking about?"

From his interview with the LA Times:
It [a college football playoff] would be so negative for college football in my opinion that it just doesn't make good sense. Including the fact it would be 16 teams, not the four that many people advocate, because politically you couldn't stop at four, you couldn't stop at eight, you couldn't stop at 12. And even at 16 you'd have problems.
What political pressures and "problems" is he talking about?

If he thinks a playoff would have to pick the best 16 teams, yes, that would be a problem and devalue the regular season. But the political pressures I'm imagining would create an 11/5 playoff, which would mostly maintain the sanctity of the regular season and create an exciting postseason. And wouldn't be terribly different, when you think about it, from an 8-team playoff with the best 8 teams.

Or is it just the logistical issues involved with scheduling 15 playoff games?