Month: September 2011

Oh, Right, Borders is Dead.

More than a week ago Borders bookstores went out of business. I made a final run to the few remaining stores in my area to pick what little flesh was left on the corpse.  Yes, I’m a vulture, but dammit I’m a loyal one! I was shopping at Borders for years … granted I mostly bought from them only when I had a coupon that garnered 30 – 50% off the cover price but I did buy lots of magazines from them (coupons weren’t good for magazines.) Yes, I bought magazines, rather than buying a cup of coffee and sitting in the cafe for a couple of hours while reading magazines.  I may not have been a good customer, but I was still better than most of you! (Points accusingly.)

Ahem.

Anyway, it was an interesting experience shopping at stores that were just short of being abandoned storefronts.  Something I noticed was that there were many times I’d go to Borders, a coupon in hand, and walk away with nothing.  Somehow, out of all of the hundreds of thousands of books in stock I couldn’t find anything worthwhile.  Somehow, with most of the shelves gone and the few that remained standing almost bare, I suddenly found my options much more appealing.  I suppose it was somehow due to the options being much more visible without all of the competing titles acting as distracting background noise.  The fact that they were selling at 10% of the cover price probably helped, too.  That helped make me much less picky in terms of what I bought.

When I say picky, I mean I cast aside all pretense of intellect.  Oh, sure, I bought science fiction books, but I became very curious about the ones with covers that emphasized the … softer … side of sci-fi.  Will these be pulp crap?  Unfortunately marketed works of genius?  Who knows?! Some examples:

My gut instinct? Probably going to be crap.  That’s okay; I made the mistake of reading a Warhammer 40,000 book once.  There’s a good chance I’ll never read these books.  The backlog is already massive and at some time in the future I’ll forget I’d bought these on a lark, think some simpleton had slipped them into my collection at some point to embarrass me, and throw them away or trade them to a used bookstore.

I also bought some nonfiction:

  1. A book about checklists appealed to me as an auditor.  
  2. This analysis of race relations struck me as interesting, especially with the recent opening of the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial in DC. 
  3. How could I resist a discussion about the importance of the 1980’s, my favorite decade, on modern culture? 
  4. Admittedly, being honest has caused a lot of problems in my life, but presumably a book about how to transform your life through honesty is about how to make things better.

Web Comics & the Circle of Life (a.k.a. Spoooooky!)

This past weekend was the second annual Intervention, a convention about online culture. I didn’t go but I have friends who were a part of it (one of which makes the web comic Sticky Comics).  In discussing their experience this year the topic of web comics of course came up and again I had to lament that I’m very unaware of the web comic world.  There are many many options out there catering to a variety of tastes.  Below I will discuss a sampling of them and my views.

First, there are the really well-known and long-lasting series (I believe the two go hand-in-hand.)  There’s a handful of them, and I’m sure there could be significant debate on which particular series are in fact well-known. Off the top of my head I can think of the following:

  1. Penny Arcade
  2. XKCD
  3. Questionable Content
  4. Dinosaur Comics
That is all. Frankly, even Questionable Content is … questionably well-known.  After that, series devolve into increasing levels of obscurity that may be popular among certain crowds (action figure collectors know about Alien Loves Predator and Shortpacked while video game players are familiar with PvP and CTRL+ALT+DEL) but never attain a real level of universal recognition.

Of the series I regularly read:

  1. VG Cats
I’m not even sure why.  Maybe it’s just that I thought the characters were cute and didn’t scream of artist self-insertion.  Years ago (back in college) I had a real affection for Sinfest. I thought the art was sharp (and still do) and the comics were funny, if predictable.  Even then, I didn’t spend much time reading the comic online; I bought the print editions.  Just now, while researching for this very post, I learned that the artist of Sinfest, Tatsuya Ishida, used to work for Entity Comics; a long defunct comic book publisher best known for Zen: Intergalactic Ninja. While they he drew the two issues of an obscure series called Strangelove that I really enjoyed and was always disappointed never took off (it was a weird sci-fi/political/business themed series.)
At the Small Press Expo I learned about a comic series I’d like to read, Dresden Codak. This reminded me of another series that came to my attention years ago, Gunnerkrigg Court.  It’s kind of silly that I’d want to read it since I only noticed it when someone posted an image that was one panel of the series with the text “THIS COMIC IS SO DEPRESSING” plastered over it.  The art style was interesting with very stylized (and not quite anime) designs using very thick lines everywhere so I sought the series out.  I never took to reading it, though. 

Raccoon Red vs. Blue

Skateboards are cool. But skateboarding without
protection is totally UNcool.  Wear a condom, kids!

I’m skipping Raccoons in the News this week to mention to things involving raccoons that I ran across this week:
First, while looking up Rad Raccoon on Facebook I stumbled across the Red Raccoon Interactive Marketing Group based out of Philadelphia, PA. Their site has a lot of posts about changes to the formatting of Google and, presumably, how to exploit them to better promote one’s business.

Today I went to Big Lots to pick up some toiletries and perused the food selection.  Lo and behold I found a drink called Krazy Kritters, specifically “Blue Raz Raccoon” which has a blue raspberry flavor.  The image at the top of this post is what’s on the can.  I couldn’t find an official website for the range of Krazy Kritter drinks, it looks like there used to be one but it just goes to a web hosting page now.  I did manage to find a review of it, though, and it’s not exactly glowing.

Kickin’ it at the Small Press Expo! (Part Two: Haulage)

A week ago I was at the Small Press Expo in Bethesda, MD.  While there I spent an unfortunate amount of money on things.  Bear in mind, I was unfamiliar with most of what was available at this show.  As the name implies the artists and creators represented at this event were not big names in the world of comics.  Many were self-published and relied on their online presence to promote their work.  I can’t say I’m too plugged into the online comics world.  As a result, what I bought was based on what I saw at the event.

As I mentioned when recalling my experience at the Baltimore Comic Convention a month ago I have somewhat specific tastes when it comes to what I buy.  I like ridiculous things. I like art that skews more towards the abstract in style.  I like things that are science fiction or fantasy based.  Generally, these things were not to be found at the Small Press Expo.  The majority of small press works are more memoir-like slice-of-life work that can often relies on humor (but the more one leans on humor the less respected they’ll be.)  I’m not knocking what these artists and writers produce; I’m just saying that most of what they produce has little appeal to me.

So what did appeal to me?

First, I ran across The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys.  I met these guys at their table at the Monster Mania horror convention in Cherry Hill, NJ earlier this year. I bought their book Scary Tales of Scariness, which was alright (I’d only gotten around the reading it a month ago).  I figured “hey, I know these guys! I may as well support their work.”  They were also promoting/selling a series of books about Bad-ass Faeries, anthologies that told unique tales of fairies they had contributed to.  So I bought a copy (and had it signed; I know that I talked about how I don’t understand having people sign things but it makes things awkward if you tell someone “no! don’t sign it” right after buying their work.)

I bought two prints at the show.  The first was one was a piece titled Three Wiser Monkeys by Obsidian.  It’s an illustration accompanied by the following caption: “Speak no evil. See no evil. Awesome poop fight.”  You can probably figure it out from there. 😮

I bought a print for a couple of friends of mine, both Dr. Who fans, who recently had a daughter.  It’s titled Dalek Parenting by Sarah Martinez who works for Interrobang Studios.

In college I was in a Storyellers’ Club, which was probably my best experience during those years, and I’ve always carried that with me (in fact, the friend I brought along to this event was someone I met in the Storytellers’ Club.)  I was perhaps a little pretentious in my approach and as a result I specialized in telling Native American folklore.  As such, I was drawn to the book Trickster: Native American Tales by Fulcrum Publishing. Of course, with Native American folklore there’s always the possibility of raccoons appearing. I’m happy to report that one of the stories, Azban & the Crayfish, is about a raccoon!

I also saw an art book promoting a fantasy/sci-fi web series titled Dresden Codak.  Apparently my friend was familiar with the title but I’d never heard of it. I bought the book that was available, a primer on the series, and need to remember to read it online at some point.  Yes, one could levy the complaint that the art is too “anime-like,” the way many online comics are, but I find that with fantasy and sci-fi–which this artist has a nice deco style to–it works really well.

At the same table were these metal stop sign shaped signs that read “POOP.”  I couldn’t resist.

Along those lines I bought issue #1 of Man-Gull from Stock*Pile comics.  The tagline was “Strong enough to rip the arms off a man, smart enough to use them.”  Yes, it’s as wonderfully ridiculous as it sounds. 

Finally, I bought a “preview” (I remember when these were called “ashcans”) of a comic titled Princeless from   Action Lab Entertainment. Yes, I know it looks “girly” but I’ve been working on a story about a princess going out on her own for … oh, my God it’s been that long, has it?  Anyway, it’s apparently a theme I’m interested in.  Also, kudos to them for making the princess black.  Sadly, being so small press, I doubt they stand a chance of reaching the audience they’d like to get.

And that’s it for what I bought.  All told, I’ve added a bit more to that intimidating pile of books waiting to be read.  At least I supported a bunch of people doing what I wish I had the ability to do in the process.

A Fool & His Money

Man, I’m ashamed to say I’ve been on a spending spree lately.  It was bad enough that I picked up Bulletstorm, the Sly Collection, and Ratchet & Clank Future (with a Dualshock 3 controller) on sale from Amazon last week.

Then this weekend I stopped by a local Borders to pick whatever meat was left on its bones (for up to 90% off retail price!) and got some interesting books and a Bluray for just $26!  But dang, I also picked up a couple of those damn Prima strategy guides (for Super Street Fighter IV & Bulletstorm) which, at 70% off, rang up at $6 a pop.  These things are just so overpriced.  They’re also a relic of the past. I remember a time before the internet and Gamefaqs in particular that guidebooks (and the tips section of the occasional issue of gaming magazines) were the only way to really learn things about games.

After that I was at the Small Press Expo where I spent a hefty sum on some cool pieces.  I’ll go into more detail on that in a later post.

Then yesterday and today?  Deus Ex: Human Revolution was $35 on Amazon and Gamestop was selling all Playstation Move hardware for 50% off.  I was … powerless … against the deals.  Mind strong … body weak! So now I have a Move wand, navigation controller, and Sharpshooter thing.  Now I can play games that are … just like playing similar games on the wii.  If not exactly, given that the game I want are House of the Dead: Overkill Extended Cut, De Blob 2, and No More Heroes: Heroes’ Paradise.  But I hated the wii!

That wasn’t a wise choice, was it?