Monday, April 14, 2008

And God spake, and he said...

..."there will be a Portal 2."

And the nerds did rejoice, and feast upon the oily remains of dead sentry bots, and it was good.

But there was still no cake.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

It JUST hit me!

So for the last couple hundred years, it seems, I've been reading...Megatokyo. Not religiously, mind you, just every few weeks or months I would think, "Hrm, I haven't checked up on Megatokyo in a while. I wonder what's changed there." Were I thinking clearly, the answer would have been obvious. But I maintain that my judgment has somehow been clouded for a very long time--no doubt through some evil mind-control scheme.

And so, the other day, I was bored at work, and checked Megatokyo once again. I had a strange feeling in the pit of my stomach. At first I thought maybe it was excitement--like how I feel when I read John Allison's masterful Scary Go Round, or play Portal again after a long hiatus. But when one of the "customers" walked up to ask me a question, I nearly broke my hand, I minimized the window so fast. And then I realized what the feeling was. Shame. I was unbelievably embarrassed to be reading Megatokyo after all these years, and it was from this realization that another one was borne: I fucking despise MT.

Before I'm stoned to death by hordes of prepubescent American anime spazzes (I'm SO avoiding using the word "otaku," simply because I think MT would love that), let me make some disclaimers. It's great that Fred Gallagher followed his dream and got to make his webcomic full-time. I'm sure that he's a wonderfully nice guy--I've got no reason to assume otherwise. And clearly, some inane thing made me check MT sporadically for the last six or seven years. At first, it was almost certainly my teenage "blue period," my years spent languishing in the deepest, darkest pits of nerddom. But after I put away my Dragon Ball Z tapes and stopped drawing "chibi" versions of myself in the margins of my notebooks, I don't think I really had any excuse except familiarity. You sort of want to see things through to the end, you know?

So Fred, if you read this, I'm very sorry. But please go away now, because I'm going to say some things you won't like.

One thing I hear people defend Megatokyo with is that the art is good. But folks, it's just...not. His backgrounds are generally pretty decent and I can get on board with his street scenes. But the people all look identical, male or female, save for their hairstyles--and even some of those are hard to distinguish. Their facial expressions are cardboard, and they aren't even pretty. And for the love of GLaDOS, what the hell is with their hands? They lack any definitive bone structure, and they're TINY. You know that prank kids play where they say, "If your hand is smaller than your face you have cancer," and then when you check they hit your hand into your face? I think if I tried that with these characters, I would freak out upon seeing the hand-to-face proportion and run screaming. This is something I ALWAYS notice.

And the real problem isn't even that the art is mediocre at best. The problem with the art is that it doesn't ever evolve or improve. Look at Scary Go Round over the years. It's gone through more stylistic changes than I can count, and each has been refreshing and excellent, as always. Megatokyo looks largely the same now as it did in 2000, when I was fourteen and thought it kicked ass.

I'm going to use the art to segue into my second huge gripe now--the schedule. Megatokyo has the most sporadic update schedule I've EVER seen. And for a comic that is just sketched entirely in pencil, with no inking or colors, this is ridiculous. There are weeks where Fred actually meets the three requisite comics, but they're very rare. Most of the time, there's a Dead Piro Day or Dom steps in with stick figures acting out inside jokes, or it simply isn't updated at all. This would be understandable if he were doing it on the side, but this is his JOB. His only job. Yes, the store and all that take up time. But ultimately, there would be no store if not for the comic, so quit designing new figurines and draw your damn comic. And yes, he has a new baby--but that's no excuse. These problems are not new. He's always been this sporadic. John Allison runs a shop for Scary Go Round as well, and he updates five days a week with a beautifully detailed, meticulously-drawn, fully colored and digitized comic. He has NEVER missed a deadline in all my years of reading--at the very least, he has guest strips, but these are once in a blue moon.

Speaking of which, for its seven-ish years online, Megatokyo has gone virtually nowhere. I've tried multiple times to chronicle how much time has actually gone by in the comic world, but I can't quite get it. My estimate is anywhere from two weeks to three months. In SEVEN YEARS. Scary Go Round (yes, I'm going to keep using it, so you may as well get used to the idea) utilizes short, concise story arcs which generally occupy about a week of in-comic time, and usually about three weeks of real-life time. After seven years, that would make about two and a half years of comic time, give or take some. And there is comic time in between arcs. The plot is moving so glacially slow that it's impossible to tell how much time has passed.

...If you can even consider its flimsy string of disjointed occurrences "plot," that is. There have been several "idol" press conferences, a handful of zilla cataclysms, enough emo-centric conversations to get any My Chemical Romance fan through high school, and more forgotten art lessons than I can count. And yet nothing has actually happened. Both the loserish main characters have attractive, smart Asian girlfriends, and yet nobody has scored a kiss yet. Has there even been a hug? Someone, please, let's get this show on the road. Actually, maybe the reason the plot goes nowhere is that Fred has come to the realization that he can't draw people kissing.

This will be my final point against MT, not because I don't have any more, but because it seems like enough and I'd hate to make Fred cry. But seriously--does anyone else see what an egocentric pile of wishful thinking this is? The protagonist is an "idealized" version of Fred himself, a sad, dorky, shy, and ultimately useless little man who inexplicably lands himself a gorgeous, newly-famous Japanese voice actress for a girlfriend. He has all kinds of zany adventures in Japan and manages to score a job with zero effort, and even though he arses things up in every possible way, everyone thinks he's adorable and ignores his fuckups. Romance! Intrigue! Laffs!

...I wish. Well, this was a much longer rant than I intended it to be, but I think it was needed. Seriously, guys, if you're so desperate for something decent to read that you've settled on Megatokyo, close that tab. Open a nice, fresh, new one, and read some fucking Scary Go Round.

Friday, April 4, 2008

There Will Be Blood -- Jimmy's perspective

I just watched There Will Be Blood with a friend this evening. I've yet to see a film with such superb acting. Daniel Day Lewis, Paul Dano, and the film's creators deserve every ounce of respect they received.

I consider myself to be a fairly intellectual person with a fair concept of how to read films, but I must say, I've no idea what this film was about. And I say that in best possible way. TWBB paints such vivid, detailed images that its nearly impossible to decipher parallels and subtext in a single sitting. In other words, this is a very rich text for greater study.

As mentioned earlier, the acting in this film is second to none. Lewis and Dano rendered their characters with such passion that it's difficult to think of them as anything but real. I expected to keep seeing Dano as an incarnation of Dwayne in a different setting but the artfully played, money-hungry pastor shared nothing in common with previous characters. Lewis is such a chameleon that comparison with past roles didn't even enter my mind with this film. The slow, deliberate drawl carried a force and determination that was difficult to even associate with the soft-spoken Lewis.

The score for the film was quite good as well. The string arrangements created extreme amounts of tension while the simple percussion coupled with the other elements of the score helped to reflect the rising action. There were a few sections that didn't seem to work well, and actually resembled a well-recorded kindergarten music class. All in all Atonement deserved the Oscar it received, but the score here served its purpose well.

Without picking the thing apart even more (also, I'm just tired), There Will Be Blood is a fantastic movie if you seek a stimulating, challenging film. Buy it when it comes out of video. I know I will.