Hello! I’m Homestar Runner, and this is a website!

March 27, 2014 § Leave a comment

Actually, no. I’m not Homestar Runner, and this is a blog. I just thought that would be a funny way to start things off. Plus, you know, common search terms on Google and all that.

This blog is currently in its third iteration. It started off as a way for me to collect my thoughts and ramblings about World of Warcraft, and as a journal, of sorts.  Then, I kind of got bored with World of Warcraft and thought, maybe I will use this blog as a place for me to post my creative writings and practice the craft of writing and all that silly nonsense.  Then, well, then life got complicated. I got married. I had a kid. I moved to New Jersey. Like I said. Complicated.

I was reminiscing about how much I enjoyed writing this blog when I started in…holy crap, 2009! And I realized how much I missed it.  I let life get in the way. I let my own insecurities as a writer get in the way. I let a lot of things get in the way. But you know what, no more.

I wish I could tell you what this blog is about. I wish I could come up with some pithy mission statement and find a way to convince not only new people to come read what I have to say, but convince them to keep coming back. But I can’t. It’s a work in progress. I’m writing for myself, I guess, and whatever comes, comes. If I find a specific thing to channel everything into, great. If not, well, I’m really not going to worry about it.  And, I’ve rambled on enough already. I’ve got posts to work on.

 

“[Insert clever sign off phrase here]“

~Fizz/Ben

Mouse in the House

July 2, 2010 § 6 Comments

I would like to share with you a thoroughly embarrassing story from about 6 years ago.  This is the story of The Mouse in the House.

« Read the rest of this entry »

Critiquing free content

January 29, 2010 § 4 Comments

I read a number of online comics.  I enjoy them quite a bit, especially the ones that manage to update a lot.  It never ceases to amaze me that some of these artists are able to get a comic out every single day.  One such comic that I read (Schlock Mercenary) has been putting out one comic every single day since June 12, 2000.  That is just unheard of in the world of webcomics, even among the ones that sell books and other merchandise.  But it’s not just the ever consistent update schedule that keeps me interested.  It’s a well drawn, well thought out, and well written comic.  And even though sometimes the story lines have a tendency to meander a little, or take some time to get going (in fact some of the story lines take months to pick up speed), it remains one of my favorite comics.

There is another webcomic (that shall remain nameless for now–all I will say is that it was about a certain MMO we all enjoy) that I tried reading, but had to give up on.  I got tired of the artist going through phases of never updating, and then complaining that it was so hard to update and whining about how it wasn’t fair that his fans were giving up on him.  Eventually he decided to have a guest writer and he would just draw the strips, but he still didn’t update with any sense of regularity.  This wouldn’t really have bothered me except that a) he repeatedly promised he would update every day, and b) he constantly complained that it was unfair that his fans were getting tired of broken promises.  He kept saying that since he was giving us these comics for free, we had no right to complain about the sporadic and broken update schedule.  I don’t know if the guest author backed out or what, but he started asking people to send him in stories and he would draw them.  Still, day after day, week after week, new comics failed to appear although plenty of people commented and claimed to have sent him ideas.  I honestly expected that his next step would be to ask people to send in fully written, drawn, and colored comics that he would just post on his site.  But that never happened.

If you go through the comment section on that particular webcomic’s site, you will notice a war going on between two groups I will call, ‘the hyper-critics’ and ‘the super-fanboys’.

The ‘hyper-critics’ spent all their time criticizing every aspect of the comic, from it’s art and writing, to the author’s broken promises and lack of commitment.  Nothing the author did was good enough for them.  Most of the time they complained about the lack of updates, but then even when there were new comics, they called the art hackneyed and the writing trite.

The ‘super-fanboys’ on the other hand blindly defended everything the artist did no matter what.  The artist was above reproach.  No-one had a right to complain that the comic never got updated because it was free content.  Nobody could call the art or writing bad because they aren’t artists–they can’t create anything so they don’t know how hard it is.

To be honest both sides ended up sounding foolish and childish.  All their arguments, even the most intelligent ones, eventually devolved into bitter name calling.

It got me wondering–to what extent can free content like a webcomic be criticized?  How much does the audience have a right to expect from the artist, and when do they cross that line?

Here’s my opinion on the matter.  If an artist (or author or musician) puts out free content, then the public that consumes said content has a right to express their opinions about that content.  I personally think that if they don’t like the content that they should offer up constructive criticism, rather than just saying, “this seriously sucks hard core”, but they still have a right to their opinion.  They do not however have a right to demand that the artist change their content to fit their desires.  They are certainly welcome to ask, and they are certainly welcome to go elsewhere if their requests are ignored, but demanding is right out.

The artist is never above criticism though.  Just because the content is free doesn’t mean they are exempt from being critiqued.  I really don’t like it when someone makes a critical comment (nice or not) and someone responds with, “you aren’t paying for this, so don’t complain” or “I don’t see you doing any better, therefor you can’t complain.”

I also think it’s a mistake for the artist to ignore all critical comments just because what they are putting out is free.  Maybe it’s completely legitimate criticism.  Maybe their art really does suck, or maybe their story line is really dragging and slightly boring.  But if they ignore criticism across the board then they won’t improve in any way.  Then they just end up living in denial.

It’s like those people who audition for American Idol who are completely convinced that they are God’s gift to music, but actually wouldn’t be able to carry a tune in a wheelbarrow.  Often times I wonder, are the people in their lives equally delusional, or are they just cruel, cruel people?  Honestly.  If your brother or sister or best friend or whatever wanted to audition for American Idol but you *knew* they couldn’t sing their way out of a paper bag, and you let them go anyway, that’s on you.  Any embarrassment or hurt feelings or rejection they go through is on you, because you should have had the guts to be honest with them, instead of leading them on with false encouragement.  Yes, it’s true that we are free to try whatever we want and to pursue our dreams as we see fit, but we do a disservice to those around us if we allow them to delude themselves.  If they can’t sing, tell them.  If they still want to pursue music as a life choice, that’s fine, and by all means support them.  But get them vocal lessons.  Hire a vocal coach.  Encourage them to practice, and to learn, and to improve.  But don’t lead them on with false hopes and false encouragement.

Wow that was quite the tangent.

Anyway, my point is, I think that just because you’re putting out free content, that doesn’t mean you are exempt from criticism.  It doesn’t mean that your audience has to accept and love your work and think it’s awesome all the time.  However, those of you doing the criticism need to remember that after all, you aren’t paying for the content.  You can’t demand this that or the other.  You can’t really vote with your dollars, or even with your internet traffic, because the artist may only be putting out said content to share it with people, not because they care if anyone buys it or sees it.  Feel free to comment and share your criticisms, but don’t be a jerk about it.  If you don’t like it, but don’t have any constructive suggestions on how to improve, keep your damn mouth shut.  But if you do have helpful things to say, say them, and don’t be afraid to say them.

And finally, to the fans out there, stop blindly defending the artist.  If someone makes a negative comment about their work, it’s not the end all be all of comments, nor will the world come to an end.  And stop telling people they have no right to criticize since the content is free, because the artist may need the critical comments.  But if you keep blindly defending them in every situation, the artist may begin to believe they are above reproach.  And then their work won’t ever get any better because they will already believe that they are at the top of their game.  In fact, I’d be willing to wager that the quality of their work will go down.

I’m curious what other people think about this, especially anyone that puts out free content themselves.  How much can free content be criticized?

“[Insert clever sign off phrase here]“

~Fizz

There are four lights!

January 25, 2010 § 4 Comments

One of my favorite episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation is a two part episode called “Chain of Command”.  My apologies if I get any of the facts mixed up, it’s been a while since I’ve seen the episodes so I’m doing this all from memory.  The story goes like this: Captain Picard, Dr. Crusher, and Lt. Worf are ordered to go on a secret mission to a planet called Celtris III, to investigate reports that the Cardassians have a lab there and are trying to develop metagenic weapons (a super powerful bio weapon that unravels the DNA strands of anything it comes in contact with).  Reports have come in that this planet is giving off theta-band carrier waves. Theta-band carrier waves are a dead giveaway for metagenics. Apparently.

Anyway, they get to the planet, and arrive at the location of where the lab should be and discover that the theta-band carrier waves are coming from one single device and that there is no weapons lab; it was a trap all along.  Dr. Crusher and Lt. Worf manage to escape but Picard is captured and taken to a torture/interrogation facility.

There’s a secondary plot involving the new Captain of the Enterprise (they had to put someone else in charge while Picard was gone since there was the distinct possibility that he wouldn’t come back and the Enterprise needs a Captain).  The new Captain, Captain Jellico, shakes things up a lot, and changes things around a bit and some other not very relevant nonsense.  Eventually the Federation sends him to meet with the Cardassian Ambassador to discuss various “we know what you’re up to” “no you don’t” “yes we do, stop it” “we’ll stop if you go away” type topics.  It’s all very tense and stand-off-ish.  For a great deal of the negotiations the Cardassians seem to have the upper hand, and at some point it looks like the talks are going to fall apart.

It is discovered that the Cardassians are planning to invade Federation space and they have captured Picard to try and get tactical information on the movement of the Enterprise.  The Cardassian fleet is discovered hiding in some nebula (I forget which one, but it doesn’t really matter), and Captain Jellico sends Commander Riker into the nebula to to place mines all over the Cardassian fleet.  Captain Jellico informs the arrogant, and now very angry, Cardassian Ambassador that he knows what they are doing and has planted mines all over his ships, and that if they don’t depart in peace (and release Picard) then he will blow them up.  The Cardassians begrudgingly leave with their tails between their legs.

Ok so back to Picard.  He is captured and taken to a torture facility.  His interrogator, Gul Madred, is a cruel and ruthless man.  He lifts Picard’s arms above his head and hangs him there all night.  Then in the morning, he comes in and lets him down, and then proceeds to tell him what it is he wants.  He says that he wants to know about the Federations tactical plans and what their flag ship (the Enterprise) is going to do.  But he knows that he has to break Picard down first.  And the way he goes about it is through psychological torture.

Gul Madred turns on a set of four lights and asks, “how many lights do you see?”

Picard responds, “there are four lights.”

Gul Madred then activates a control device which sends pain throughout Picard’s body, and says, “no, there are 5 lights.”

They go back and forth like this for quite some time.  Madred will ask various questions and they will have awkwardly pleasant conversations, and then he will ask about the lights.  Picard always says that there are only four lights, and Madred always responds by zapping him.

After they go back and forth for a while Gul Madred sighs and says something to the effect of, “it’s a shame, I was hoping to be able to get what I needed from you.  Oh well, you can go.  I suppose I’ll have to move on to the female.  I would try the Klingon, but we had to kill him.  Hopefully the female will be more cooperative.”  It’s at this point that Picard realizes he’s talking about Dr, Crusher, and since he doesn’t know that she escaped, he really begins to fear what Gul Madred might do to her, so he agrees to stay, and endure more.

At the end of the episode Madred comes in one last time to try and break Picard.  Madred knows that he is supposed to release Picard because of what Captain Jellico has just accomplished, but he is determined to break him before he releases him.  Madred asks again about the lights, Picard says there are four, he zaps him.  Then he says that all the pain can be over, that Picard can be freed from the pain and live a life of comfort and scholarly reflection.  All he has to do is admit that he can see five lights. Picard pauses and thinks really hard before responding.  Just then, two Cardassian guards come into the room and ask Gul Madred what he is doing and tell him that Picard was supposed to be cleaned up and ready to go an hour ago.  Picard realizes he is about to be set free, and starts shuffling out of the room.  Just before he gets to the door he pauses, turns, looks at Gul Madred and yells, “There… are… FOUR LIGHTS!!” (and there is an unspoken “bitch!”).  It’s a very powerful moment where you know that Madred wasn’t able to break Picard and that Picard’s horrible ordeal is over, and he ‘won’.

Some shows would just stop here, ending on a win.  But instead they have an epilogue, where Picard (now reinstated as the Captain of the Enterprise) is having a discussion with the ships’ counselor, Diana Troy.  He begins relating the experience and tells him of the ultimate choice Gul Madred gave him: End the pain by admitting he can see five lights, or continuing to insist that there are only four lights and endure endless torment.  It’s at this point that Picard admits that in that moment, he really thought that he could see five lights.

It’s just one of those really great moments, and is a powerful look into psychology and how the mind works.  And it leaves you wondering, did Picard really ‘win’?  Did Gul Madred actually break him?  If the guards hadn’t come in at that moment, would Picard have admitted that he actually saw five lights?  It gets me thinking about what my own personal breaking point might be, maybe not at the point of torture, but at what point might I admit to something I know in my heart isn’t true?  At what point would I convince myself a lie is true if it meant the end of personal pain and suffering and meant a life of comfort and ease?  I don’t know the answers to any of those, but it sure is an interesting thing to think about.

“[Insert clever sign off phrase here]“

~Fizz

And now it’s time for another addition of “I never noticed that before”

January 22, 2010 § 1 Comment

In the Magus Commerce Exchange, Dalaran, there is a shop called the Scribes’ Sacellum.  It is here that scribes can learn their craft and buy their needed supplies.  It’s a well staffed, well stocked little shop.  And holy crap is it a tall store.  I was in there this morning, and I was reminded of a fairly true principle–most people just don’t ever bother to look up.  Because I looked up.  And what I discovered is that the Scribe’s Sacellum (sacellum by the way means small, usually unroofed, chapel consecrated to a divinity) extends up and up and up, and the walls are lined with books.  In fact, you know what it reminds me of is that room in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, the one where Charlie and his granddad drink that stuff that makes them float way up to the top where the fan blades are.  Except the Scribes’ Sacellum doesn’t have giant fan blades at the top of it.  It also doesn’t have any of that cool flying-inducing beverage.

In addition to this rather extensive library, there is a woman standing in the back of the Scribes’ Sacellum named Theresa Wolf, who carries the title Loremaster.  It would appear that this woman’s sole responsibility to conjure a spell that moves books from the shelves down below in the lower part of the shop, up into the very tippy top parts of the shop, ostensibly re-shelving them.  It’s hard to tell if that’s what actually happens because once the book gets all the way to the top it just disappears.  I don’t know why but it was really captivating to watch.

Anyone else noticed anything like this lately that they’d care to share?

“[Insert clever sign off phrase here]“
~Fizz

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