Tag: gushing about stuff john likes
Important Service Note: The links in this week’s Link Wednesday are not referrals.
Before I begin: I don’t want to hear any giggling in the cheap seats over the fact that I’m linking to a site about My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Really, if you’re even still reading this, you should know by now my proclivities and fondness for all things cute, and while in the past MLP has fallen into the glurge-tastic side of things, the most recent series– which wrapped up a rather epic second season last month– has both earned and deserved every bit of praise that’s been heaped upon it.
So yeah. Ponies are cool. Deal with it.
Equestria Daily takes more or less the same tactic towards being a fan of the series. Unashamed, unafraid, and at times completely unhinged in its enthusiasm, the site’s coverage of all things pony has been nothing short of unbelievable. In what is probably a testament to how the fandom sees itself and wants to be portrayed, the bloggers running it have almost never run a negative story in the history of the site, and what criticism they do have is often gentle but firm. Even the commenters– oftentimes the worst part of any site offering open-mic-style feedback– are generally pleasant and supportive.
This is mostly helped by two things particular to the show itself. The first, and probably most important, is that the show really is that damn good. Very seldom does animation on either side of the Pacific really “get it right” when developing a kid’s show that adults can, if not enjoy, then at least tolerate. But MLP manages it with this run simply because what’s aimed at the adults is still accessible to the kids (well, except maybe the Big Lebowski reference) and what’s aimed at the kids is genuinely funny and clever without being smarmy or condescending. Yeah, a grown-up can get more than a little self-conscious watching it all by their lonesome, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing– you just have to overcome that.
The second is that, because the show is so good (a factor of its lineage; the creator, Lauren Faust, has worked on breakout shows before) it’s attracted a considerable fanbase which– against all expectations– has taken the core message of the show to heart. You could be forgiven for believing that the message was to sell toys (which, admittedly, it is a little), but the ideals of friendship and adventure that are in every episode are woven into the slapstick, parody, and drama so well that you don’t realize until much later on that it’s trying to teach people to be nicer and to work together. And every fan-based work promoted on EQD just proves that a good message wrapped in a great story can lead a lot of people to do some extraordinary things for each other.
To wit: a charity drive started by fans looking to raise $10,000 for a clinic in Uganda hit its goal within three days.
That’s why I like the show so much, and the fanbase just as well. If it’s hard for a show to get popular with viewers of all ages, doing so while promoting a positive message is just about as rare as a griffon’s feather. I make no secret that I believe the meaning of life to be to make life easier for everyone else, so it might just be me that finds My Little Pony to be a show worth celebrating and promoting.
But then again, looking at the tremendous amount of people who put their effort into making each other and the people around them smile just a little bit… maybe it’s not just me.
Important Service Note: The links in this week’s post are not referral links. However, John does know the proprietor.
If you’ve been to an anime convention on the East Coast in recent times, chances are you’ve had opportunity to hit the Artist’s Alley and see the work of the artist featured this week. She’s been around for a while, which is an impressive feat for an anime-themed crafter and artist; there’s a lot of churn as people come into and exit the hobby. In point of fact, one of the first artist groups I ever raved about online– Able Sisters Crafts– has shifted their focus to predominantly Etsy sales, as conventioning is expensive work.
Nightengale Needles has been in business since 2008, and her work is beyond phenomenal. NN (I don’t know if sharing her name here is okay with her) is a crafter of all trades, but she focuses primarily on sewing custom plushies and fleece hats. I’m continually amazed at how detailed and well-made they are, and if anything it just serves to remind me how gifted and talented some people can be.
Interestingly enough, NN is once again taking commissions very shortly for custom hats. She’ll be opening up the queue this coming Friday, with the hopes of having a quick turnaround time. Don’t let that fool you: she doesn’t sacrifice detail or quality in order to get work done, and these are certainly worth it. If you’re a cosplayer or just a general aficionado of gaming and anime culture, she can help you get that last piece taken care of (and she’s a cosplayer herself– a fantastic one at that).
Part of the reason why I’m highlighting her this week, though, isn’t just because I consider her a friend, but it’s to prove what I find to be a rather interesting and encouraging point. NN is someone who, when she started, took it upon herself to make the fan crafting business her full-time job. She did so knowing full well that, if the climate of fandom was changed dramatically by the companies which produced the stuff she modeled her gear after, she could be put out of business. Even still, she took the plunge. And her skill has borne her through the last four years with aplomb.
She’s one of the bravest people I have the privilege to know. And that bravery should be rewarded.
Important Service Note: There are no referral links in this post.
Dead Winter is a webcomic by Dave Shabet, centering about a young waitress whose life suddenly turns for the worse once the city she lives in becomes infested with zombies on the same day that she loses her job and is dumped by her boyfriend. Luckily, she meets help in the form of a flatulent yet erudite plumber, an eager medic, and a remorseless hitman.
I think it should go without saying that it’s better than that paragraph makes it sound.
Zombies are pretty much getting to be the most commonly used disaster trope nowadays, which would be depressing if I didn’t live in Pittsburgh and hadn’t already been more or less inured to zombie overload already. However, Dead Winter’s approach is remarkably different: rather than focus on the mere physical survival aspect of the disaster, Lizzie (the waitress) is constantly worried that the disaster will change her personality and frame of mind away from her pacifistic and philanthropic baseline. As the story progresses, a lot of attention is paid to the psychological toll that the zombie apocalypse is having on the main characters. Black Monday Blues (the hitman), however, is developing in much the same way as Lizzie, but in the opposite direction. Initially part of a Most Dangerous Game-style survival sport when the infection spreads, he finds himself slowly and gradually questioning why he’s sticking up for these complete strangers, as both the unliving and the living line up to kill him.
The story wouldn’t work nearly as well without Shabet’s fantastic art style. Character designs are fluid and well-detailed, switching between different models within the pages in order to achieve a desired effect, either emphasizing the dramatic impact or highlighting the lighter mood. The zombies are almost always depicted in an abstract, almost cutesy manner, highlighting their unreality while downplaying their threat level– the story, at its core, isn’t even really about them. This is a series that takes as much of its visual cues from Dawn of the Dead and 28 Weeks Later as it does from Scott Pilgrim and Paper Mario. Probably most striking, though, is Shabet’s use of color. Only a few elements of the “main” story are colorized, and even then only in red, while intermissions set in Lizzie’s subconscious are gorgeously rendered in full color (and, surprisingly, aren’t at all patronizing about explaining her mental state at the time).
Every so often, Shabet puts up animated GIFs that detail the process he uses in creating a page of the comic (it updates on a semi-regular schedule, with a new page every handful of days or so). The one at the beginning of April is extremely telling, as it shows the tremendous amount of effort that goes into each panel. It’s an amazing look at someone who takes their work very seriously and has the utmost in professionalism. I’m certainly going to keep an eye on the series.
Important Service Note: In many cases, the links provided in Link Wednesday posts are referrals; by using them you provide a benefit to John, which will be disclosed for each service or product advocated during Link Wednesday. In this specific instance, using the referral link to sign up increases John’s storage space as well as your own. A “clean” URL is obtainable by hovering over the link.
We live in an increasingly decentralized society. Talk of “the cloud” permeates a lot of technology these days, and the increasing size of our data files means that devices which seemed roomy and unfillable a few years or even months ago now feel cramped and restrictive. Take my own portable-computing dilemma, for example: I have an iPhone with 32GB of space and an iPad with 16GB. As I’ve worked with both devices, I’ve found that I really need the inverse– I want more space on the tablet and need less space on the phone. In some cases, this is because I want the same files on both devices but don’t want the hassle of constantly syncing them.
Dropbox is a way around that, and one that I’ve been using for about two years now. It’s one of the oldest and most well-respected “cloud” file services in business, and it’s also one of the most economical. The free service offers you 2GB of online space that can be synced to a mobile device (iOS or Android) or a desktop computer (Windows, Mac OSX, or Linux). Paid services bump that up to 50GB or 100GB depending on your outlay, and referrals allow you to expand your capacity– if you refer someone, you get 1GB added on permanently, while the person who you referred gets half that. This even works for free accounts.
On desktops, the process is completely transparent– Dropbox sets up a folder that’s automatically synced to its servers as long as you’re online. Mobile usage is where it really shines, though, and this is due in no small part to the fact that mobile devices are becoming far more robust. I can only speak to the iOS client, but even that has strong integration to other apps such as the Elements text editor. Recent additions allow the app to accept files for upload, making it a great tool for collecting content on the go. Moreover, you can use your Dropbox account to share large files with friends (though certainly I would use some restraint in doing this for certain types of files).
Overall, I like it quite a bit over Apple’s iCloud service; even though iCloud support is “baked into” iOS and a number of apps are starting to embrace it, Dropbox is still a better deal in terms of flexibility and expandability. It might not replace having a USB stick on hand at all times– many workplaces clamp down on its use due to security reasons– but it’s still worth free.
I’m enjoying listening to the audiobook of A Game of Thrones on my travels to and fro, but there are some very odd parallels I’m drawing from it to my current life situation. Just to take an example, you have no idea how many eunuchs just happen to live in the city of Pittsburgh.
So, I went to see The Secret World of Arrietty this evening with friends. It’s almost a stereotypical Ghibli movie, which is to say that if you hate certain aspects of how that studio prefers to tell stories, you’re probably not going to find a whole lot to love here. Moreover, it takes a remarkably different approach to the source material than the mid-to-late 90′s Hollywood adaptation of The Borrowers did, and if you were a fan of that particular one, again, you’re probably not going to be terribly happy with this either. However, it was a pleasant enough film, and Carol Burnett’s performance as Hara pretty much steals the show.
I’m actually very glad to be “done” with Skylanders for the time being; at the moment, I probably could brute-force my way through the last four achievements if I really wanted to (or, more likely, enlist the help of another player to use a subtle exploit that may or may not work), but I’m pretty happy with leaving it as-is for now. Honestly, the game is too addictive for its own good, and outside of the figure-swapping gimmick there’s not a whole hell of a lot to it. Plus, the final boss is brutally hard solo, which is why I’d consider asking that certain other player for help– the “last” achievement (aside from the “get all others” one) requires a no-death run against the final boss, and I think it would be remarkably easier using the characters that can both attack foes and heal allies with the same action.
And yeah, I did do it this morning mostly to get to the next gamerscore milestone. It is an ultimately meaningless pursuit, but I like tracking it, and with the purchasing restriction this year it’ll be interesting to see how my percentages increase. They may actually go down, in point of fact– I have a few games on the shelf that haven’t even been put into the system yet, and as a result when they’re added to the aggregate totals I might lose some ground. Still, I’m making better progress to the 2012 clear goal than I really expected, and I imagine that I’m probably going to fire up an older RPG when I get back home tonight.
Speaking of that, I’d better get moving if I want to be on time– going to meet some friends and roll the ol’ plastic polyhedra. Ciao, folks.
Over this week, I’ll be telling the story of how I got my new car. I happen to think the tale is worth telling. If you’re just here for the video game and anime snarkiness, well, I suggest you tune in next Monday, when I hope to return to form on those fronts. But for now, please enjoy the six-part “Treks, Plans, and Auto Ordeals”. Posts for this week are on auto-pilot and should show up before or around noon.
…..okay, to tide you over, then, this little bit of news: I’ve slowly been getting back into Magic: The Gathering, and today I managed to score a relatively major coup in that I found an item that was the perfect confluence of my interests: the Jace vs. Chandra Duel Deck set… in Japanese, with the exclusive alternate artwork for the two planeswalker cards. It’s my firm intent to be able to play either of these decks by the end of the year. I know Magic, and I have a rudimentary grasp of kana and kanji. I also happen to know someone who knows both of these things. I’m sure she will also be interested in helping me with this challenge.
Good night, all.