Friday, August 1, 2014

What If WWE RAW Was An Early 90s Sitcom?

Animated image courtesy of mrdappersden

Pro wrestling and ABC's TGIF and TGIF Family programming blocks are two major parts of my childhood television experiences, and now I can find something that manages to be both of these things at the same time!

 If you ever wondered what the opening credits to WWE RAW would look like if it were an early 90s era sitcom, the WWE video production department has your oddly-specific musings covered with the following video (complete with tracking and VCR tape artifacts).

This a hilarious video, and even better, it's an official WWE video. Enjoy!

 

Reminder: "Coping With Disabilities Through Pony" Panel Tomorrow

Matthew Palumbo, a dad with a degenerative visual disability, is spending the last Bronycon he expects to have usable vision left taking his seven year old son to meet all the voice actors his heart desires... and also help raise awareness and reformation in the MLP:FiM fandom by hosting the panel "Coping With Disabilities Through Pony" tomorrow. The panel will be tomorrow in Moon Hall, starting promptly at 1:45 PM. The panel will be headed by Matthew Palumbo and his 7 year old son Ethan, fan animator Meredith Sims of Silly Filly Studios, illustrator, fan artist and programmer of Braillemon Rachael Meredith, and writer & aspiring educator Benjamin Platt.

They will also detail two new "Beyond the Panel" initiatives: The collection of "Our Little Inspirations"-- 41 stories from fans around the world in e-document, free pdf and at -cost physical book form as well as a free downloadable audiobook-- and "Descriptive Snowdrop"-- an re-release of award-winning fan film Snowndrop that makes the story of a blind pony fully accessible to the blind and visually impaired with descriptive audio.

Don't miss it!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Watch The Entire "Women Who Kick Ass" SDCC Panel Here

Here are Natalie Dormer, Maisie Williams, Katey Sagal, Tatiana Maslany, Sarah Paulson and Nicole Beharie talking about the depiction of women in media, the challenges of women in pop culture and more.

Critical Failure: WotC Employed Toxic Harassers As Consultants On New D&D

Last week, I cast a spotlight on the newest edition of Dungeons & Dragons and praised the Player's Handbook for taking the bold step to have inclusive language on gender and orientation right in the handbook. I heralded it as a great step forward and said "Kudos to WotC."

I take it all back.

image

The blog Fail Forward details how beneath the positive press for its inclusive language, the latest edition of D&D also counts among it consultants two men that have a long history of engaging in harassment, homophobic and transphobic behavior: RPGPundit and Zak S.
Seeing their names there in black and white was just too much, and people began to speak out. Most did so in private, others posted publicly but without naming names. This, I became aware, was because anyone who criticized the pair found themselves subjected to harassment, abuse and real world stalking... This is where Zak excels. He has in the past posted lists of people who he feels have displeased him in some way, complete with their real names. Those people then lists find themselves subjected to sustained campaigns of harassment.
...
While this behavior is alarming, it the choice of victim that is the most telling. These attacks nearly always target women and LGTBQ individuals, mostly freelancers and independent designers. Zak and Pundit have taken pains to defend themselves against accusations of transphobia, but I know several trans people who their fans have attacked and harassed. Zak described one of them as ‘mentally ill’, both he and Pundit told others they would be better off committing suicide. Recently, in a post defending Zak and accusing his detractors of misogyny, his girlfriend attempted to out a trans designer.
The anonymous tumblr Problematic Tabletop started cataloging some of their more public behavior. Fresh waves of hate mail forced designers to delete and hide social media accounts to escape. At the same time Zak put his setting book on sale, using promotional quotes consisting of people calling out his behaviour. This was not unusual, Zak’s business model revolves around publicly being a jerk. He is, quite literally, a career bully. 
Eventually, Mike Mearls, the lead designer of the newest edition of D&D, asked for people to come to him privately with any stories of harassment on the part of Zak S. and the RPGPundit had engaged in. Days later, Mike Mearls said that he considered of the claims didn't matter, because he couldn't find any evidence of either man using explicit slurs, so the matter was closed as far as he was concerned.
 Meanwhile, Zak was publicly speaking on Mearls’ behalf, saying that WOTC had found the claims against him to be baseless. Those who sent Mearls information began to panic, had he just shared their complaints with their harasser? Mearls responded that he had told Zak the claims were baseless, but hadn’t shared any names or details with him. Nevertheless they were not pleased, nor did they feel safe. Why had Mearls consulted with Zak before replying to them? Why was it more important to re-assure Zak he was in the clear than respond to allegations of harassment? Mearls again replied, saying that he was not taking the accusations seriously because some of the people stating them were members of the Something Awful forums... Meanwhile, The RPG Site, operated by someone Mearls hired as a consultant, currently contains such topics as: “Bruce Baugh can go fuck himself with a rusty spoon”, “Why I dislike feminism” and a thread defending the use of the word ‘Jap’ in WW2 settings...  
In investigating this story I heard the same tales over and over again. The RPG community is small enough that almost every woman, person of colour or LGTBQ individual seems to have had a run in with Zak or Pundit. The only reason I hadn’t heard about this before is because they are too afraid to speak out. Discussions happen in private, or with the names left out, because both Zak and Pundit are infamous for googling their own names and attacking their critics. Zak even now tries to portray these allegations as prudish conservatives out to smear him due to his involvement in pornography. Yet for that to be true almost every marginalised voice in the RPG community would need to be part of a secret right wing conspiracy. At a certain point you have to accept that that is implausible.
WotC has not made a public statement on the matter. All communication has been through private emails and a now-deleted G+ discussion. It's been nearly a month since this brought to light. WotC has been content to soak up praise and admiration for using inclusive language, but wants to dodge responsibility for using two poisonous people as consultants for that same new edition of D&D.

You don't get to have it both ways. Inclusive language has to accompany inclusive behavior-- otherwise, you're doing nothing but paying lip service with empty words.

Shape up, WotC.

Someone Like Me: What Children's Stories Can Teach Minority Kids

Image via spesiria
Why do so many princesses looks the same? In a moving personal essay entitled "Challenging “Normal”: Why Non-Token Diversity in Kids’ Storytelling Is Important", Navdeep Singh Dhillon uses a recent heart-breaking incident with her young daughter to posit that in media for children, most characters that are not white only seem to be defined by their “otherness. An excerpt:

On New Year’s Day, we are heading out to brunch, and Kavya’s sitting on the stairs, her head in her hands. Crying. I ask her what happened. In most cases, we verbally abuse the pain-inflicting object, followed immediately by a good stomping, and that sorts things out. But this time is different. 

In-between muted, heaving sobs, she says something that I hadn’t expected for at least a few more years: “I want yellow hair. Like Rapunzel.” She points to the large, manga-eyed, blonde princess with tiny toothpick-wrists, smiling on her t-shirt. 

It’s one of those parenting moments where time stands still.  I fight the urge to say, “Rapunzel’s hair is stupid. She can go to hell.” 

My wife, Sona, sits on the stairs with Kavya and tries to comfort her. Sona’s parents don’t really understand the heaviness of what Kavya is saying, and view it as just a random tantrum. 

…Instead of berating Rapunzel for her physical appearance, I ask Kavya if she knows who my favourite princess is. 

She looks up at me. “Who?” 

“Princess Kavya.” I say, touching her nose. 

She starts crying even louder. After a bit, she says, “Why do you like Princess Kavya?”

In fact, Sona wrote an essay herself on why she co-founded CAKE Literary, a literary development company that focuses on high concept fiction with a strong commitment to diversity.:

“Growing up as a little brown girl—one of the few, back then—in small-town, suburban central New Jersey, books were my escape. I caused a ruckus alongside little Anne in Avonlea; I mourned Beth along with her sisters in the harsh winter of Maine; I honed my grand ambitions like Kristy and her babysitters’ club; I even swooned alongside Elena over the brothers Salvatore when The Vampire Diaries was originally released. (Yes, I am that old.) 

But if you’ll note: in all those books and the hundreds of others I devoured, I never really saw myself, or anyone remotely like me. The majority of characters in books for kids and teens in the ’80s and ’90s were white. And, according to Christopher Myers in his recent New York Times piece, “The Apartheid of Children’s Literature,” the majority still are today, by quite a landslide. 

Why is this worth discussing? Because it hurts. A lot. It’s a hit to a kid’s self-esteem to be told—silently, but oh so clearly—that their story is not worth telling, that their voice is not important.”

Image courtesy of dakotaa.deviantart.com

In the meantime, many artists on tumblr have contributed to This Could Have Been Frozen, featuring different takes on Disney's Frozen recasting the lead characters as people of color. While Frozen takes its cues from the fairy tale "The Snow Queen," they points out that not all Europeans are white, and the movie explicitly references Saami culture in the way many characters dress.

Some people may be wondering what the big deal is? Stories are stories, and books are books, right?

Wrong.

Stories help kids understand the world. When there are entire sections of society that are barely represented-- or worse, neglected-- then it becomes harder for kids to idetiny with, understand, or empathize with them. It's even worse when a minority kid  doesn't see anyone like them in the stories they read or the media they experience, because they miss out on that sense of belong, of being a valued part of society, and of getting to identify with the heroes in books or on-screen.

Author Deepa D. outlined this feeling in "I Didn't Dream of Dragons" in a personal essay that is still relevant almost five years later:

When I was around thirteen years old, I tried to write a fantasy novel. It was going to be an epic adventure with a cross-dressing princess on the run, a snarky hero, and dragons. I got stuck when I had to figure out what they would do after they left the city. Logically, there would be a tavern. But there were no taverns in India. 

Write what you know is a rule that didn’t really need to be told to me; after having spent my entire life reading books in English about people named Peter and Sally, I wanted to write about the place I lived in, even if I didn’t have a whole bookcase of Indian fantasy world-building to steal from. And I couldn’t get past the lack of taverns. Even now, I have spent a number of years trying to figure out how cross-dressing disguise would work in a pre-Islamic India where the women went bare-breasted. When I considered including a dragon at the end of a story, I had to map out their route to the Himalayas, because dragons can be a part of a Tibetan Buddhist tradition—they do not figure in Hindu mythology.

Image courtesy of We Need Diverse Books.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Nintendo Game Boy: Now You're Playing With Flower



Images courtesy of  Riverwood-Elf
Painted the pokemon Haunter!
These incredibly well done custom Nintendo Game Boy cases are courtesy of tumblr user Riverwoof-Elf, who does custom covers for portable systems for her friend's shop. If you want one of your very own, contact her via her tumblr.

(Thanks to reader Velmagrrl for the tip)

Mile High Comics Ending Booth At SDCC? Why It Might Be A Good Thing.

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Inage courtesy of Bleeding Cool
In the latest Mile High Comics newsletter, founder and president Chuck Rozanski said that SDCC operated at a net loss compared to other conventions, and that although he wishes it were different, it looks like he'd be ending his four decades of attending San Deigo Comic Con. What does it all boil down to? Exclusives are killing his business there. Read on for the full text of the newsletter:

I am turning 60 years old next March. I mention that major turning point in my life only because the last time that I did not attend a San Diego Comic-Con, I was 17 years old, and still in high school. Since I graduated, for all 42 years of my adult life, I have committed the heart of each of my summers to my personal obsession with experiencing the joys of the San Diego Comic-Con. I even passed this personal passion on my part on to my four daughters, all of whom spent their entire childhoods delightedly roaming the halls of the various incarnations of this great comics convention. 
Sadly, that entire blessed reality may need to end after this year’s show closes tomorrow evening. I have not yet found the courage to reach my final decision, but my best estimate is that, at our current rate of sales, we will suffer a loss of $10,000 at this year’s show. As much as I like being a part of this wonderful gathering, I simply do not have the money to be able to pay $10,000 out of my own pocket for the privilege of providing the fans here with comic books. After 42 consecutive years in a row, it may finally (at long last…) be time for me to bid San Diego good-bye, forever.Before I go further, I would encourage those of you who have not yet read my newsletter from yesterday to first read my analysis of some of the seismic changes that have contributed to our loss. The one factor that I would ask that you especially note when you read my first essay is the fact that our entire 7-booth display that we are operating at this year’s San Diego convention was first premiered six weeks ago, at the Denver Comic-Con. Despite our having about 20,000 fewer comics available in Denver, and that convention being only three days long (with half the number of attendees as San Diego…), our sales per hour in Denver were double (!) what they are here. That made all the difference, as we turned a reasonable profit in Denver, as opposed to a massive loss in San Diego. 
So how could an extremely successful back issue comics booth in Denver become so stunningly unsuccessful in San Diego? Because in Denver we were not being utterly crushed by the very publishers whose goods we sell on a daily basis. In a nutshell, the comics publishers with booths at the San Diego convention have so cleverly exploited the greed and avarice of comics fans through limited edition publications that are only available through their own booths, that there is no longer enough disposable income left in the room to sustain us. A sad state of affairs, but also completely true. 
To illustrate my point, I had the leader of one of the major comics publishing houses stop by our booth on the way out the door last evening. This man has been our friend and ally for decades. He was absolutely ebullient yesterday evening in describing the amazing success that they were experiencing in their booth as a result of selling vast quantities of exclusive variants. I felt more than a little embarrassment and shame when I had to rain on his parade, by pointing out to him that the collective effect of his actions (combined with the other publishers and manufacturers at the show…) was devastating our sales. My response was not at all what he expected to hear. But as the validity of what I was expressing became clear, I could see awareness dawning in his eyes.All of the above having been said, my publisher friend is an extremely astute man, so he quickly understood the unintended consequences of his actions. Given that he was only seeking to cover his own costs of exhibiting in this dreadfully expensive venue, however, he could muster no material reply to my pain. In many regards, that was the most depressing aspect of this entire fiasco. Being obviated by lifelong friends is particularly galling, especially when we it is clear that we are nothing more than collateral damage, in a battle being waged by giants.
So where does this leave us? As much as I hate to admit this, it now seems obvious to me now that we finally have to end a lifetime of exhibiting at San Diego, and instead seek out relatively popular comics conventions in other cities. Especially conventions where our publisher friends choose to not exhibit. Doesn’t that thought just drip with irony? Comics publishers have evolved to become toxic to their own retailers. Who would ever have thought that would happen? Even with all my many years of experience, I simply cannot believe that our world has now been so perverted by the mania for exclusive variants, that comics retailers can now only survive in the absence of the very publishers we support. No matter how you look at it, this is a profoundly sad day.

Mile High Comics is a legendary comic book dealer and warehouse in Denver, Colorado, and if you grew up reading comics in the 70s or 80s, the company's advertising in the middle or back pages of Marvel or DC books were ubiquitous. The company and its SDCC booth were featured in the Mogran Suprlock SDCC documentary "Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope". While they have suffered losses here and there over the past two decades as the industry landscape has shifted (and in some cases, contracted), they've endured for decades. And although Rozanski rails against booth exclusive comics, Mile High Comics have offered a number of limited Mile High Comics exclusive variants themselves.

So what gives? With SDCC more popular than ever, are exclusive variants to blame for the company's crushing losses? The Comic Book Bin's Dan Horn doesn't think so. Here's what the Mile High Comics booth at SDCC looked like to him:
It was a mess. There was Chuck, complaining to a solitary customer about losing money hand over fist and blaming it on the con exclusives, while the exclusives Mile High were selling were pretty difficult to see or to find. This year they didn't bring any trades either. There also weren't any big ticket items like we saw the year that Spurlock made his film. I browsed the back issues for books to fill out my collection, but I was appalled by most of the prices: $6 for a comic book issue I could probably find at my LCS for fifty cents... The Mile High Comics booth was nearly empty all weekend while other booths with half-priced trades and comics marked-down below cover-price were incessantly swarmed with ravenous comics readers. These people weren't mobbing these booths for exclusives, as Chuck posited. They were just looking for something good and affordable to read. Many of these bustling booths didn't even have exclusives. It wasn't until Sunday, the final day of the con, that Chuck put out a sale sign, and guess what--business started booming for him as well. But it was too little, too late.
And while Rozanski has talked about leaving SDCC for good before, this time it may stick. What did Horn think?
Part of me thinks, "Good riddance. That's a huge booth that's going to open up and maybe Dynamite Entertainment or Valiant will finally have a place to make their own in the exhibit hall. Or maybe a comics megastore like Mile High but with fair prices will move in. This could be a really great thing."

What do you think, dear readers?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Keep the Game Alive: Preserving Video Games For Art History

Image courtesy of Trevor Owens
Jeremy Parish has a new article up on 2-dimensions about preserving video games for the future, and it's a pretty interesting read.:
The fact that we even need to have a conversation about game preservation is just, like, the most pathetic thing ever. In a good world, it would be a no-brainer proposition. Of course the history of video games, and specifically the games involved, should be enshrined and preserved and presented in a clear and sensible fashion. Of course. And yet, here we are... the concept of video game preservation exists as an almost entirely grassroots movement, often skating at the edge of the law. That sounds so dramatic and important, which is silly; it’s just a matter of keeping old creations from vanishing into obscurity, which is really the furthest thing from going rogue. It shouldn’t have to be like that. And yet, here we are.

Video games and computer games are part of our shared cultural heritage and go back at least 50 years (and some would argue further back than that, depending on how you define "game"). The general public is very interested in early video games- as plenty of exhibitions on video game history, like the Smithsonian's show on the history of video games, and articles like Parish's show.

One problem faced by those looking to preserve classic console and arcade games is that the source code to video games is often proprietary. Other times, the original code has been lost to time, and the specific hardware used may be difficult to use later, as the team behind the Ms. Pac-Man & Galaga 20th Anniversary arcade cabinet found:

Galaga has three Z80 processors where Ms Pac-Man has one, Galaga has 64 sprites where Ms Pac-Man has six, Galaga's stamps are in front of the sprites while Ms Pac-Man's are behind, not to mention the additional complexity of switching between games in the attract mode and selecting which game to play... To make matters worse we would need to make some minor tweaks to the game code to enable the games to live together on the same hardware and Namco was unable to come up with the source code. So, we wound up disassembling and reverse-engineering pretty much all of both games.
As Parish notes, even documenting and compiling examples of game prototypes can be a daunting task :
...the effort, money, networking, and perseverance required to find code for a game that never made it past the unreleased sample stage is extraordinary. And that doesn’t even factor in the constant struggle to gain access to unreleased code that’s fallen into the hands of jealous collectors who are more concerned with being able to lord their possession of something truly unique over the rest of the collecting community than they are with making sure those one-of-a-kind rarities aren’t lost to time, magnetism, or bit rot… and so, here we are.
Hats off to those doing the hard work of curating video games, since as of yet they are not considered by mainstream sources to be an important part of our cultural history that should be carefully preserved like any other medium. However, if video games were ever to become considered culturally significant, or someday viewed in a different light, classic video games, (some of which are facing original & master copy data degradation, laser disc rot, bitrot etc) might meet the same fate as silent-era films that weren’t preserved because they were seen as cheap, disposable entertainment and have been lost to time forever.

In This FPS, Cheating Is Encouraged

animated image courtesy of Alpha Beta Gamer
In Screencheat, a new first person shooter game for the PC being developed by Surprise Attack Games, not only is cheating encouraged, it's actually a key game mechanic. Screencheat is a multi-player first-person shooter where each player is invisible! That means that the only way you can figure out where you or your opponents are is by looking looking at THEIR side of the screen, figure out where they are and hunt them down. Here is the reveal trailer for Screencheats that was released last week:




If that's not enough to whet your whistle, you can check out the free public beta for the game that starts in August here!

Ultimate Team Up: Newlyweds Throw Superman & Wonder Woman Themed Wedding

Photo via your az photog
The groom said that the bride has been "...Wonder Woman from the moment we met, and I found out everything she’s been through and accomplished. She has always said I came in like Superman and changed her life.”

The article is short, but a picture's worth a thousand words, so check out the compilation of pictures from the wedding and read the thoughts of the happy couple in their own words here.