Monthly Archives: June 2009

The people you meet when you Twitter.

I know, I know, follower counts are really meaningless, but it’s still exciting to see my follower count rise over 60. Yes, some of them are spammer accounts, and some are semi-automated accounts that automatically follow anyone who follows them, but there are still enough legit ones that I suspect quite a few of them, maybe even the majority, have to be reading me on Twitter but not Da Blog. (Not that I’ve made things easier with my paucity of posts recently. We’ll see what the effect of this post is, though.)

But I’m not sure about some of these followers, who seem to automatically follow anyone who happens to mention a certain key word relevant to them.

Okay, I can understand AspergerKids and TMS01 following me after I mentioned Asperger’s in a recent tweet. I actually happen to have Asperger’s, so the connection is logical there. But… what the hell is up with GHuntersFansite following me after I said Cartoon Network was starting a Ghost Hunters ripoff? If there’s one thing I’m not into, it’s that sort of claptrap.

I’m not sure whether I hate it for its dishonesty, or whether I love it for the sheer irony of it…

Random Internet Discovery of the Week

Is it a bad sign when (I believe) two consecutive posts are spent on the RID?

Is it also a bad sign that I couldn’t think of anything else to say about this?

Save the RID, please! If the current results hold – they’re currently for maintaining the status quo – I think this may be the very last RID ever.

Random Internet Discovery of the Week

It’d be nice if this told you what it is before throwing you into it.

The current RID poll is likely to end on Monday regardless of when it says it’s going to end, simply because the changes that will happen to Da Blog then are too major.

Say hello to the NBO!

Since the bowl contracts are coming up for renewal, here are my thoughts on a potential new bowl order. I haven’t associated any of these with bowls, just idle thoughts. Mostly based on my college football rankings and bowl-eligible teams last two years.

  • SEC #2 v. Big 10 #2
  • Pac-10 #2 v. Big 12 #2
  • ACC #2 v. Big East #2/Notre Dame
  • SEC #3/4 v. Big 12 #3
  • SEC #3/4 v. Big 10 #3
  • Big 12 #4 or Big 10 #4 v. Big East #3/Notre Dame
  • SEC #5 v. ACC #3
  • Pac-10 #3 v. MWC #1
  • Big 10 #4 or Big 12 #4 v. ACC #4
  • Big 10 #5 v. Big 12 #5
  • MWC #2 v. WAC #1
  • C-USA #1 v. ACC #4
  • Big 10 #6 v. MAC #1
  • ACC #5 v. Big East #4
  • Big 12 #6 v. ACC #6
  • SEC #6 v. Pac-10 #4
  • SEC #7 v. ACC #7
  • ACC #8 v. C-USA #2
  • Pac-10 #5 v. WAC #2
  • C-USA #3 v. Navy
  • MWC #3 v. WAC #3
  • WAC #4 v. MAC #2
  • MWC #4 v. C-USA #4
  • C-USA #5 v. Sun Belt #1
  • MWC #5 v. MAC #3
  • MAC #4 v. Sun Belt #2
  • C-USA #6 v. Sun Belt #3 or Army

Let’s play "What is Tom Hansen talking about?"

From his interview with the LA Times:

It [a college football playoff] would be so negative for college football in my opinion that it just doesn’t make good sense. Including the fact it would be 16 teams, not the four that many people advocate, because politically you couldn’t stop at four, you couldn’t stop at eight, you couldn’t stop at 12. And even at 16 you’d have problems.

What political pressures and “problems” is he talking about?

If he thinks a playoff would have to pick the best 16 teams, yes, that would be a problem and devalue the regular season. But the political pressures I’m imagining would create an 11/5 playoff, which would mostly maintain the sanctity of the regular season and create an exciting postseason. And wouldn’t be terribly different, when you think about it, from an 8-team playoff with the best 8 teams.

Or is it just the logistical issues involved with scheduling 15 playoff games?

The last notice of links to Da Blog

Remember when I said the new Tweeter wasn’t for advertisers? I lied.

Effective immediately, I will no longer acknowledge links to Da Blog on Da Blog. It makes me come off as desperate for attention. Instead all such notices will come only on Twitter. Follow me on Twitter if you’re an advertiser interested in knowing when I get linked to.

Now, then, here are the last two links to Da Blog you’ll find on Da Blog. First, the ArtPatient blog linked to my 8BT review and I suspect will be linking to my webcomic reviews on a fairly full-time basis from now on. Yay, an important milestone on the road to being respected as a webcomic reviewer!

Wait, what’s this? My post from yesterday is a “Related Article” “around the web” for Fanhouse’s examination of whether anyone else will win 10 NBA titles, behind only articles from SI and USA Today?

Du…duh…duh…

The legacy of the 2009 NBA Finals.

Of all the Kobe Bryant-Phil Jackson titles, this one is especially special.

But not because it’s Kobe’s first without Shaq. No, this title is special because it locks up Phil Jackson’s legacy.

Phil Jackson now has more titles than any other coach in NBA history, even Red Auerbach, but has rarely gotten any respect for them. After all, people say, he just so happened to be the coach who won six titles with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, then won three more with Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. Lucking into two all-time great, title-winning pairings shouldn’t be the criteria that gets you seen as great.

Well, this year, Phil Jackson proved he really is that great a coach.

This wasn’t a Jackson/Pippen or O’Neal/Bryant situation. Jackson had Bryant, but he came into the 2005-06 season without much else. Those years proved that Jackson and Bryant were in fact human; they would have to earn a fourth title together. You can attribute the Lakers’ success to shrewd front-office decisions, but it was Jackson that turned Bryant into the leader he always wanted to be, and Jackson that created the environment that allowed the team to gel and succeed.

The jury’s still out on whether Jackson is the greatest coach of all time, but he’s locked up his spot in the top five to ten. If you don’t think Jackson had something to do with the Lakers’ win, you’re effectively saying that coaches never have anything to do with successful basketball teams. After all, didn’t Auerbach have Bill Russell for much of his career?

Now, maybe that’s the case. But here are the last 25 Finals winning coaches, from most recent to least recent: Jackson, Doc Rivers, Gregg Popovich, Pat Riley, Popovich, Larry Brown, Popovich, Jackson, Jackson, Jackson, Popovich, Jackson, Jackson, Jackson, Rudy Tomjanovich, Tomjanovich, Jackson, Jackson, Jackson, Chuck Daly, Daly, Riley, Riley, K.C. Jones, Riley. The only possible duds (or even non-Hall-of-Famers) of that bunch are Rivers and Jones, and Rivers had three great players working for him (and arguably, Jones did too) and Jones comes close to being the oldest name on the list.

It seems apparent that even great players can’t get to the Finals without a good coach by their side, especially with how egocentric NBA superstars tend to be. If Phil Jackson is the luckiest coach in NBA history, there should now be no doubt he created some of his own luck. He deserves to be on the same level as Red Auerbach and the other great coaches. That can no longer be disputed.

I finally get to pick a fight with an established webcomicker! Because slamming Dresden Codak wasn’t as fun.

(From 8-Bit Theater. Click for full-sized inevitable hopelessness. Which is a good way of describing 8BT itself, actually.)

So, it’s been long enough. After a brief stint with doing actual webcomic reviews, I got bogged down in all sorts of other stuff, and so I haven’t been doing actual webcomic posts for a while. And it’s high time I sat down and got back into the thick of things. Especially given how close I’ve been coming to putting something off to the point of eternal regret.

Because I never got around to reviewing 8-Bit Theater.

That may well be my eternal shame as a webcomics reviewer. In all my posting about identity crises and sports ratings and April Fool’s jokes and global warming series and missing sports graphics and stressful classes and personal neuroses and complaints about Draft Image Upload (very very close to becoming irrelevant by the way) and overload of side projects and other obsessions, I never got around to reviewing 8-Bit Theater.

I don’t mean to say it’s the greatest webcomic in the history of the universe. I don’t even like 8-Bit Theater. But after I used Komix to subscribe to 8BT with an eye towards eventually writing a review early this year, and seeing it move to a new system and something vaguely resembling an actual RSS feed while Komix’ proprietor was on vacation, and putting off writing the review for one distraction after another, I’m not going to let 8-Bit Theater, which ranks high among the ranks of the Tier 1 comics, pass into oblivion without my having reviewed it.

What’s more, because I’m catching it as it makes its big finish towards the end, I may be getting an unrepresentative sample. One thing that struck me as I was reading it day-by-day originally is that it seems to leave off one plot thread and start up a new story so fast you’re wondering how we got from there to here. When Black Mage says in a recent strip that “this whole goddamn adventure has been nothing but pointless build ups to pay offs that never happen“, most people can’t help but think there’s an element of truth to it. But as I start to re-read it I can’t help but wonder if this is actually cross-cutting between different groups and plotlines that makes sense in context. Still, it can come off as complete nonsense to the uninitiated. Even within a plot, there’s a lot of hopping around back and forth between different stati quibus, and keeping track of what’s going on can be especially difficult when reading it one page at a time.

So, what else? Well, um, 8BT is interesting in how it structures its updates. It uses the one-page-at-a-time approach of Girl Genius and Gunnerkrigg Court and doesn’t really ever stretch it out like Order of the Stick, yet it’s better than the first two at making each update stand out in its own right.

And.

Um.

Yeah.

8BT reminds me of xkcd in a way in that there’s not much I can say about it. Reviewing the updates I originally followed “live” in an archive binge leaves me without much to say either. In fact 8BT leaves me questioning my own ability to go on with my webcomic reviews, just because I’m having trouble properly analyzing it, and that may say a lot about 8BT in and of itself. The characters almost seem to be interchangable cyphers for the most part, without much in the way of distinguishing them or making us care much about what’s going on, which makes it all the worse that it can be a little hard to keep track of what’s going on even when you read it all at once. (With the possible exception of Black Mage, and I swear and hope to God I’m not just saying this to echo what Robert A. Howard said recently, which I just read as I write most of this.)

Oddly, 8BT may have actually been a bit funnier in its very early strips, and maybe a bit more distinguished in its characterizations. Some of its jokes are actually funny, and the strip managed to balance a gag-a-day format with a continuing story, though it did have a habit of making the sort of joke way too endemic of sprite comics: “Look! I can’t draw and sprites have limitations so here’s an explanatory caption to show what this is supposed to be!” And everything tended to be all over the page with side jokes all over. As for characters, Black Mage was the evil one, Fighter the dumb one, Red Mage the munchkin, and Thief… well, here’s where the trouble began, probably. Thief was basically a storehouse of all the jerk-y traits the other three didn’t have. He’s supposed to be greedy and hoarding gold, but that doesn’t really tell you much. They were all fairly one-dimensional (as characters and visually).

It’s easy to see why Red Mage and Thief got mixed up, since they were basically “someone who wants more stuff” and “someone who wants more gold”; Fighter out-and-out decayed, becoming less and less of a complete buffoonish dumb idiot and starting to show slightly more intelligence whenever Brian Clevinger needed a line that didn’t make sense for the other three to say for whatever reason. Then occasionally trying to run too far the other way to compensate. So they all became, basically, “we’re jerks and Black Mage is pure evil”. Even Fighter became too consumed by his stupidity to be an effective counterpoint to the others’ jerkness, and leaned more towards the other Light Warriors than, say, White Mage in those instances when he snapped out of it. One wonders if Clevinger made him “he’s really a good guy – but he’s friends with pure evil because he’s too stupid to realize otherwise! Get it? It’s funny!” in a last-ditch effort to maintain the distinctions, the same reason Red Mage developed an odd cross-dressing fetish (which just made Thief look even more generic).

In fact, let’s save you the trouble of actually having to read 8BT yourself, as here’s a pretty good summary of the strip:

8btparody

I guarantee you that strip is more funny than almost all of 8-Bit Theater, and probably a lot better as well.

In my full-fledged Darths and Droids review I said it was no insult to call 8-Bit Theater a poor man’s Order of the Stick. I see now I was wayyyy too kind. 8BT isn’t even as good or compelling as Bob and George, which may be partly the result of having characters that should by all rights be the villains as the protagonists to the extent that you hate them more than rooting for them. Not even Ethan from Ctrl+Alt+Del is as bad as these guys! OOTS‘ Belkar is, but you root for him more than you root for even Fighter! Of course, maybe the real problem is that the former has Lucas and Lilah while the latter has the rest of the OOTS to balance them out, while the closest thing to balance the Light Warriors have, White Mage, hates them as much as anyone else and only pops in and out. Another possibility: Belkar is funny when he’s doing evil things while the Light Warriors are funny when bad things happen to them. (To be honest, probably 90% of the actually funny jokes in 8BT are just Fighter being stupid.)

I’m not sure why people attack CAD so much or why John Solomon went after B&G when 8BT is far more deserving of the vitriol. I want to make clear: this isn’t an anti-sprite-comic review. I read and enjoy Bob and George (which, having ended, is ineligible for a review) and I don’t even see sprite comics as a crutch for an inability to draw, as Dave Anez and Clevinger have mad Photoshop skillz to tweak their sprites the way they want to. The problem is that in Clevinger’s case, he seems to have put too many skill ranks in those and not enough in “being funny” or “having a decent story”, and Anez has a few in at least the former. Like CAD did for video game comics, 8BT started a trend (well, furthered the one started by B&G, much like CAD accelerated the trend started by Penny Arcade) of bad sprite comics by people who only see a way to get into comics without having a lick of art skillz, or even a reason to get into comics. Unlike CAD, I can’t discern Clevinger’s secret to his success, and my leading hypothesis is a bit distressing: geeks like the kind of non-sequitur nonsense Clevinger specializes in. If more CAD strips were like the Chef Brian strips it might be as beloved as xkcd.

On the other hand, if I find out 8BT in any way inspired The Order of the Stick, then all is forgiven. Though I’ll still rib Clevinger for Rich Burlew showing him how it’s done.

Sorry, @RaysIndex, but you’re no better than the other roids speculators.

I’m sorry, Mr. “Professor”. But you’re reading way too much into Jon Heyman’s 2007 “does Sosa belong in the Hall?” piece if you think it makes him a hypocrite now for calling out people who baselessly speculate whether this guy or that guy is using steroids.

You have to keep in mind that Heyman did not start the speculation that Sammy Sosa had used steroids, especially after his disasterous testimony on Capitol Hill. In fact, I think his piece could be read as a defense of Sosa against people who want to keep him out of the Hall against baseless speculation.

Steroids speculation is making everyone crazy. But one of them is not Jon Heyman. It’s the nameless proprietor of the Rays Index.

If the blogosphere is going to be the mainstream media of the future, it needs to be able to look critically on itself and catch itself when it errs.

Expand the Pac-10? Uh… no.

Really? You think Utah is too good for the Mountain West? That’s your real problem, isn’t it?

Sorry, the reason the Pac-10 is NOT expanding anytime soon, no matter what you may want to happen, isn’t just to maintain the truthfulness of the “10” part, unlike the Big Eleven. Right now, the Pac is divided into five nice and neat geographic rivalries. Adding Utah and Boise State (the next logical football addition) wouldn’t maintain that pattern.

And frankly, as much as I respect the mid-majors, I really think Utah, Boise State, or any other addition from the Mountain West or WAC would be Cal-Oregon-Oregon State-Arizona-State-on-a-good-day level in the Pac-10, not USC level. USC and the good SEC/Big 12 teams are perennially just that good. (Keep in mind, USC beat Utah 16-0 on the road in the Golden Bowl Octofinals.)
Quit worrying about the Pac-10’s lack of respect and start worrying about your real problem – the Mountain West’s lack of respect and its need to expand with Boise State and maybe Hawaii, Fresno State, or Nevada. Who knows, maybe someday the Pac-10 will be wowed with the prospect of conference championship money and bring on Utah and BYU (both fairly good teams in both football and basketball). But as some of the commenters on this opinion piece suggest, getting more appropriate bowl tie-ins and less reliance on FSN is probably going to have to come first.

(This would not be a full-fledged blog post if I wasn’t on Twitter. I might not have even heard of it if it weren’t for Twitter, but that’s not the point.)