Thursday, September 24, 2009

Don't Adventures Ever Have an End?

My dear People,

I shall not keep you long. I am writing this post for a Purpose. Indeed for Two Purposes!

First of all, to tell you that I am immensely fond of you all, and that three years is too short a time to live among such excellent and admirable bloggers. I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.

Secondly and finally, I wish to make an ANNOUNCEMENT. I regret to announce that - though, as I said, three years is far too short a time to spend among you – this is the END.

I am going.

I am leaving NOW.


There was a flash of light, and when it faded, no one was sitting at the computer.

Filby was never seen in the blogosphere again.

Okay, now that that's over... yeah, it's true. Barring the unforeseen, I'm done blogging.

Part of it is this: I've signed up for the U. S. Job Corps, and on Tuesday, I'm moving out of my family home to go live in a dorm. Wireless Internet will be much more difficult to come by there, so my computer time will be sorely curtailed.

But more to the point, my heart just isn't in it. Lately I've been updating only once a month, if that. I used to be fairly active in the comics blogosphere, but sometime around the spat between Ragnell and Valerie D'orazio I got fed up with drama and rivalries; it became less fun, somehow. Plus, now that I have a Twitter account, I can do all my ranting about pop culture in quick, two- or three-paragraph bits instead of having to come up with a page-length post.

I'm not cut out for writing. Which is not to say that I'm giving up. I'm just, ah, strategically withdrawing while I look for something at which I'm more suited. ;)

Like I said, three years is too short a time. I've made a few good friends just from blogging, and I'd like to take the time to acknowledge some of you.

DAVID WYNNE - You inspire me. Really. A workaday stiff like yourself writing and drawing a damn good webcomic on a regular basis - and not only that, but becoming a published author - gives me hope for my own endeavors. But more importantly, you're a good friend. I don't think I know anyone with a stronger moral core than you. I know I can count on you for moral support... even if you are a dire grump. Thanks.

(And for the rest of you lot, check out MindHack TODAY!)

DJ BLACK ADAM - YOU ROCK. You're the coolest guy I know, no lie. Author, DJ, filmmaker, superhero! Is there anything you can't do? I value your insight on current events, and your thoughts on comics never fail to entertain. You've even changed the way I think about Christians and Christianity. One thing, though: when your plans for world domination come to fruition, leave me a spot as Viceroy of the Bahamas, huh?

AMI ANGELWINGS - You are wonderful, and don't ever let anyone tell you otherwise. When you're happy, it brightens my day. Your enthusiasm for the things you like always makes me smile, and your commitment to what's right is inspiring. I've learned a great deal from you about a lot of things I'd previously taken for granted. I don't want to embarrass you, but you've been a huge influence in how I see the world. You're far more awesome than you give yourself credit for, and not a day goes by that I don't want to give you a great big hug. Take care of yourself.

In addition to my friends, I'd also like to give a shout out to some of the people whose blogs I've followed: Tom Foss, Sally P, Loren Javier, Linkara, Dokebi, K-Box, Steven Padnick, and many others. Even though few or none of you will likely read this, I want to say how awesome, entertaining, and informative you all are. Rock on!

Now, words to the contrary, this isn't the absolute end. I won't be updating this weblog any further, but I will keep checking in on my friends' blogs and leaving comments when I can - just expect the frequency thereof to drop a bit. You're also all welcome to follow my Twitter feed, either on my LiveJournal or directly on Twitter.

Once again, I want to say that it's been a blast. I've had a lot of fun here at Bag End. Even as I walk off into the sunset, I'll never forget the times I had here, even as I look forward to the road ahead of me.

Don't adventures ever have an end? I suppose not. Not as long as we're around to keep having them.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What D&D Means to Me

I remember about twelve years ago, when I first discovered Dungeons & Dragons – not playing it, just looking at the rulebooks at bookstores and enjoying the pretty pictures – my mother told me that she felt taking on roles in RPGs "left you open" to demonic possession. This weirded me out, because she’s a very liberal, anti-establishment lapsed Catholic, albeit with a mystical worldview. She based her assumption on a friend’s daughter who played Vampire and got involved in the then-popular goth subculture; this young woman had a history of mental illness, and if she ever acted out her problems through the game, those problems were there to begin with and just looking for any outlet. I suspect my mother had also heard some of those alarmist reports from the ’80s about RPers committing suicide.

For my part, I’ve rarely had an opportunity to actually play D&D or any other tabletop RPG, but my mere exposure to such games has had such an impact on me I barely know where to begin. Poring over various Monster Manuals and Fiend Folios piqued my interest in world mythology. Delving into the worlds of Planescape and its fractious Factions opened my mind to philosophy and new ways of thinking (I like the Athar, personally). My immersion in words and statistics improved my literacy and math skills. Wandering the lands of Ansalon, Faerûn, and the Flanaess broadened my own creative horizons.

Without D&D, my world would be a far poorer place. I’m forever indebted to the late Mssrs. Arneson and Gygax for their gift to the world.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Crossing Over

I'm fairly into both American and Japanese comics, and there's something that's struck me about them, vis a vis one another. (Nothing against European comics; I just haven't had much exposure.)

Comics from both support a very wide range of storytelling genres and subgenres. Looking just at the geeky/speculative fiction end of things:

Japan: Giant robots, magical girls, super martial artists, transforming heroes, hero teams (sentai), etc.

America: Superheroes, space opera, gothic fantasy, cyberpunk, espionage, etc.

Of course, especially in this day and age, you can see any of those subgenres in either country, but certain genres still predominate in different nations. But I've made an odd observation: English-language comics are way more quick to cross genres.

For instance, looking at Japanese comics, there's practically no chance you'd see a comic that mixes robots, magical girls, and martial arts. Can you imagine a cross between Gundam, Sailor Moon, and/or Dragonball that isn't a parody?

Conversely, in the DC Universe for instance, you have an almost ridiculously huge array of different genres all coexisting: Superman, Princess Amethyst, Angel and the Ape, Sergeant Rock, Swamp Thing, the Phantom Stranger, Hoppy the Marvel Bunny, etc., etc., etc. - just by reading their names you can tell that if there were no shared DC Universe, there's no chance any of them would ever cross over, yet they all still make regular appearances in crossover events.

Why is this? I'd say it's a weird trick of publishing history. DC and Marvel both started out publishing comics that had nothing to do with each other, but with the emergence of the superhero genre we started getting crossovers, crossovers became superhero teams, teams begat shared universes, and by the '70s or '80s almost everything each company had ever published was deemed to have a corner in those universes to themselves in case a modern writer had an idea for them. Nothing like that ever happened in Japan, where almost all comics are self-contained, or maybe part of a single author or franchise's greater universe.

None of this is to say that one is an inherently better set-up than the other... but I have to say, a universe where John Constantine, Claw the Unconquered, and Captain Carrot's Amazing Zoo Crew can rub shoulders is a lot of fun.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

About Captain Planet

Lewis "Linkara" Lovhaug is a cool guy who reviews bad comics. I really enjoy his video segment on That Guy With the Glasses, "Atop the Fourth Wall", and recommend y'all check him out.

Anyway, he reviewed a Captain Planet comic...

...which started me reflecting on the show it was based on. This post is adapted from my comment on his video.

I liked Captain Planet and the Planeteers when I was a kid, though I'm fully aware of its flaws now. I guess I just liked anything with action and superheroes, plus the lessons it delivered were in line with my family's values - we were and are a bunch of blue-collar New England Democrats, and respect for the environment is something I believe in.

But the problem, as many people have said, is that Captain Planet slams you over the head with its message, appealing to cheap emotional responses, while getting half of it wrong. I'm basically a socialist, but I'm mature enough to realize that capitalist CEOs aren't mustache-twirling villains - they're human beings just like me, and more often than not believe that they're doing right.

If you want to see what a good environmentalist story looks like, watch Hayao Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke. The proto-capitalist "antagonist" has noble motives and actually helps people in her own way by giving them employment and shelter. The conflict between her and the nature-worshiping protagonists (who can be seen as eco-terrorists) is far from cut-and-dry. Even the nature spirits themselves are not "good" - they're dangerous, alien creatures who can be downright monstrous.

On a less serious note, I always felt sorry for Ma-Ti, the Planeteers' fifth wheel. Everyone always gets down on him for having a stupid ability. What kind of dumb power is Heart, anyway? But when I think about it, he'd potentially be the most powerful of all the Planeteers. I mean, his powers include clairvoyance, telepathy, and mind control. Just think what he could do if he had the imagination - and the ruthlessness - to use that power to its full potential!

If I were writing Captain Planet? I'd set it 15 years in the future, where Ma-Ti has gotten fed up with being the butt monkey of the team. He's become an extremist and used his ring to become a Communist dictator, controlling the hearts and minds of the masses. The other Planeteers struggle against their former friend, but they dare not summon Captain Planet, for without Heart to guide him, the planet's avatar has become a mindless force of destruction, nature's wrath incarnate.

That's what kind of dumb power Heart is!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Mister Sulu is the Man

I saw a trailer for the new Star Trek movie, and apparently it has a scene with John Cho as Lt. Sulu, fencing.

I am considering seeing it for this reason alone.

The Naked Time - the one where everyone gets a virus that makes them crazy and Sulu runs around shirtless, attacking people with his foil - was my favorite, favorite Star Trek episode of all time, of all the series. Sulu is pretty much the coolest guy on the Enterprise. Forget Captain Jerk - Hikaru Sulu is the smoothest cat in the 23rd damn century.

Part of this is my man-crush on George Takei talking. That man is so awesome. He was just so dashing, you know? Plus his activism for gay rights in the last decade is wonderful. John Cho has some big shoes to fill, but I like him too - he was great in Howard and Kumar go to White Castle.

So yeah.

Edit: "Howard"? Yeah, Howard and Claude go to Arby's... *facepalm*

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Considerations on the House of Koopa

Okay, taking my last post and running with it...

Koopas, like all reptiles in the Super Mario Universe, are a hermaphroditic species. There are no "female" or "male" Koopas; the concept of gender was only recently introduced to them through cultural exchange with the Mushroom Kingdom. Koopas that have visible gender identifiers are just imitating humans.

Koopas don't mate for life, which is why Bowser's never been seen with a mate. Instead, he's had several partners who sired his children like so:

1st mate: Ludwig
2nd mate: Roy and Morton
3rd mate: Wendy
4th mate: Iggy and Lemmy
5th mate: Larry

As for his last child, Junior, Bowser decided he wants an heir to mold perfectly in his own image, so he somehow impregnated himself, possibly with the aid of his Magikoopas. This is why Junior looks almost exactly like Bowser did as a child: he's basically a clone.

Why does Bowser keep abducting Princess Peach? Not because he's physically attracted her. It's purely symbolic in that he's holding the heir to the Mushroom Kingdom hostage. His occasional attempts to force her to marry him aren't for the sake of procreation but just to consolidate his power over both nations.

Why does Junior occasionally refer to Peach as his mommy? Because he's a dumb kid who doesn't know where hatchlings come from.

So there ya go. Irrefutable proof that I need to get my brain checked.

Mario Musings

It's kind of weird how King Bowser has like eight kids but we've never seen their mother. I got to thinking, though...

Yoshi is referred to as male, but lays eggs.

Birdo is supposed to be biologically male, but spits eggs out of her mouth.

Is there something we don't know about reptiles in the Super Mario Universe? Could gender be merely a social construct to them? Does Bowser lay eggs?

I... I think I broke my brain. :(

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Battle for Terra

Here's the trailer for an upcoming animated film, The Battle for Terra.

It's very good to see an American animation studio making a film with a mature, complex storyline. However, it seems like they can't let go of more family-friendly style elements, such as cartoonish character designs. Not that I have a problem with that - I loved The Incredibles - but it clashes with the subject matter. On the other hand, I realize that it's very hard to make realistic 3D character models that don't look downright creepy (see The Polar Express).

I'm afraid that this movie is going to do poorly businesswise, though. The Animation Age Ghetto is still in full effect. Don Bluth's Titan: A. E. failed miserably back in the '90s, and Ralph Bakshi's output is likewise regarded dismally. (This may because Bakshi's work is mostly crap, but I digress.) Sadly, American animation is a long, long way from reaching the widespread acclaim the medium sees in Japan.

Still, as I said, it's good to see someone trying. I wish the filmmakers the best.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

16-Bit Memories

I'm honestly not a big video game player. I get bored quickly and I don't really have the patience to play through a game with an intricate story from beginning to end. That said, I was into video games back in the early-to-mid '90s on the NES, SNES, and N64, and to this day I enjoy the culture of video games, especially through the Let's Play phenomenon on YouTube.

Anyway, this YouTube channel has a plethora of tracks from recent video games, but the ones I like best are the songs from Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Nintendo's nostalgia-laden masterpiece. Most of them are revamps of classic video game songs, and I just wanted to share some of my favorites.

The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time was one of only two games with really involved narratives that I ever got into (the other being its sequel, Majora's Mask). The medley here brought some great memories flooding back.

Click here for more!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I Salute You, Professor

I just want to affirm loud and clear how much I love J. R. R. Tolkien.

Honestly, The Lord of the Rings expressed some views on race and sex and class that I consider unconscionable. I just want to get that out in the open. It wasn't a perfect book and Tolkien wasn't a perfect man.

But Tolkien just had such skill with English, such a grasp on the intricacies of language, that made my mind soar. His lifelong exercise in world-building is an enduring inspiration to me as a would-be creator and as a dreamer. He is truly one of my heroes.

Thank goodness we had you, Professor Tolkien. You made the world a richer place and English a richer language.


Sorry for the lack of activity, folks. I've been in a real funk for the last month, largely due to unemployment and the first anniversary of my father's death this past Saturday. I've been consuming about the same amount of pop culture, but I haven't felt up to writing much about it. I've kept active following my friends' blogs, but mine has gone fallow.

I'm just posting to let y'all know what's up with me and why I haven't been around much. I'm not giving up blogging, but expect activity to remain on the low side for the foreseeable future.

While I'm here, I also felt like sharing this keen portrait I found of one of my favorite video game villains, Porky Minch from Nintendo's classic RPG, EarthBound.

Porky Minch -Practice- by ~Bagatelle on deviantART

Très fly, Monsieur Minch. I find the sheer repugnance of an obese 13-year-old asshole strangely refreshing in a field dominated by whiny, conflicted pretty boys. If you have the time, I highly recommend this guy's playthrough (with commentary!) of EarthBound, one of the shining gems of the Super Nintendo.

So yeah, that's all I have to say for now. Excelsior, y'all.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

More Good Cosplay

Green Goblin Costume by ~jacemoore on deviantART

See, this is what Gobby should have looked like in the Spider-Man movie, I'm just saying.

(Oh, and happy Valentine's Day, everyone!)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

In the Grim Dark Future There are Only Dudes

As an aside, before I get going, I'm now on Twitter. If anyone wants to friend me, I'm listed as "filbypott".


This is an interesting article on the exclusion of women from wargaming, focusing on Warhammer 40,000.

I've been reading the Warhammer Fantasy Battle army books, and I must say it's been fun. I enjoy immersing myself in a new world, and the more fleshed out the better. But one thing I noticed almost immediately was the exclusive use of male pronouns in the text, and that stuck out at me. Dungeons & Dragons has alternated between male and female pronouns since 3rd Edition was released in 2000 and Magic: The Gathering has always used "he or she" or "his or her" to refer to the player since its inception in 1993; as such, I've come to view gender-inclusive language as the rule rather than the exception, and coming across exclusive use of "he", "his", and "him" in a game book published in 2007 put me off.

It's not just that, though - Games Workshop seems to go out of its way to exclude female characters in the game world, too. In 40K, apparently the process for creating Space Marines just doesn't work on women, making them an all-male fighting force. In Fantasy Battle, female Skaven are neither sentient nor even humanoid - they're just giant rats for the males to mate with. Greenskins in both settings reproduce asexually, though they all happen to look male and individuals are referred to with male pronouns. And all that kinda bugs me.

Which is not to say that it's a barren wasteland for women, of course. As the article I linked to notes, the Sisters of Battle in 40K are an all-female army that wear sensible armor and aren't a horde of man-hating feminazis (God I hate that word). The various Elves and Eldar factions in both games get lots of female models. According to the tie-in novels, the Imperial Guard in 40K is co-ed (good luck finding any female soldier models, though). So, given that Games Workshop obviously doesn't actively hate women and includes them in some capacity in their game universes, it's mystifying that they aren't more accommodating of female players.

And this isn't just political correctness on my part, either. It's just a poor business model. Sure, sticking to gender-exclusive language may help assure the most immature players in their market that Warhammer is a boys' club, but if they suddenly stopped playing in protest if gender-inclusive language were adopted, would that be such a big loss? As we've seen in the RPG sector over the last decade, women can be gamers too, and as long as GW writes exclusively to a male audience, there's a big untapped market they're simply ignoring. And that's just bad business.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Stranger in the Crowd

Here's a cute ad from this year's Super Bowl. :D

I love the orc. ;)

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Blood for the Blood God!

I've been reading up about the Warhammer miniatures game, which I find kinda interesting. By which I mean the original Warhammer Fantasy Battle, not the sci-fi Warhammer 40,000 spinoff, which I honestly don't like much at all. 40K's main faction, the Imperium, is basically Nazi Germany cranked up to 11, with its god-emperor and its genetically engineered "master race" of Space Marines, yet it's portrayed as this good and heroic beacon of light, and the whole thing just turns me off. On the other hand, that kind of militarism doesn't bother me as much in Fantasy Battle's pseudo-Dark Ages setting, and the fact that it takes itself far less seriously is a big plus - I've heard it described as equal parts Tolkien, Moorcock, and Monty Python, and I'd say that about fits.

That said, I have neither the money nor the inclination to buy what amounts to an army of dolls that don't even come pre-painted. It would be cool if I could find some kind of shareware similar to Magic Workstation that lets you build your own virtual armies and play online, though.