I Love Webcomics

SickWatch 2014:  Minor overall improvements in Patient Zero; however cough and sore throat intensifying by the day. Infection has been transmitted to husband, hereafter known as Patient One. No end in sight. Send soup and crackers but do not make contact. Subjects likely contagious and certainly cranky.

I don’t remember when/how I discovered webcomics, or which was my First. I know I read through the entire archives of Between Failures at some point early in college, and I remember being devastated around that same time to discover Daisy Owl was no longer updating. A good friend of mine definitely introduced me to Dresden Codak at some point and it’s still one of my favorites.

However I got into webcomics, I’m super glad that I did. I was obsessed with comic strips when I was a kid. I dove into the Sunday paper each week for the two-page color funny pages, and I read the dinky little black-&-white page almost every day. I even read the weird narrative strips like Mark Trail and Prince Valiant, which… why? Why would I do that? They’re terrible. We got all the collection books of Calvin & Hobbes and Foxtrot. My grandparents had dozens of old Peanuts paperbacks from when my dad was a kid, and I always flipped through them when I visited. (I recently inherited those when they cleaned out their Kid Stuff, score!)

But eventually I “outgrew” gag-style newspaper comic strips, and I thought my comic days were over. As far as I knew, my only other options were superhero comics, and I’m not interested in that genre, in general. Discovering a whole world of “grown-up” comics with varied art styles and no spandex was Earth-shattering for me! I don’t have time to read through archives anymore, but here are some of my favorites to keep up with, in no particular order…

Dresden Codak

Dark Science | Dresden Codak

Clip from Dresden Codak by Aaron Diaz

I mentioned this one earlier, and it deserves two mentions because folks, it is amazing. Aaron Diaz paints (digitally) his strips, with incredible attention to detail, and a grasp of anatomy, light, and character design that is absolutely stunning. (He posts about that stuff on his art blog, which is also a great read) Updates are slow coming but absolutely worth the wait. The content of the comic deals with fun sci-fi stuff like Mad Science and transhumanism, set in a silly sort-of-dystopia, where the cities are built on the bones of ancient monsters and no one remembers how to fix the robots. You can read the full Hob storyline, or start the current Dark Science story.

Nimona

Nimona #1

Clip from Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Nimona is Noelle Stevenson’s (gingerhaze) latest award-winning project, which is currently appearing serially on her website and will be published by HarperCollins in 2015. The story centers on the villain Ballister Blackheart, and his teen shapeshifter sidekick Nimona. They have great plans to wreak havoc on the kingdom, and particularly on Ballister’s former friend and nemesis (and possible hair model), Goldenloin. But Ballister gets uncomfortable when Nimona turns out to be a little too effective at villainy. Noelle’s art is so incredibly charming, and the characters – both Good Guys and Bad Guys – are endearing and sympathetic. The comic started out lighthearted but it took a super dark turn and I’m on the edge of my seat for the next update!

Starslip

Starslip

Clip from Starslip by Kris Straub

Starslip is one of Kris Straub’s comics (he also does chainsawsuit and Broodhollow, which I’ve heard great things about but haven’t read – I do enjoy his chainsawsuit podcast with Mikey Neumann). It has concluded, so you can read the full run either online or in book form. It starts out as a silly adventure story about the curator of a museum spaceship and his less-than-civilized crew, but ends up as a complex time-travel romance. The art is pretty simple, but the story is anything but. If I had to choose a favorite completed comic, it would probably be Starslip.

Hark! A Vagrant

H!AV clip

Clip from Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton

Hark! A Vagrant is the oddball on this list because it’s not a story comic – just a collection of random (usually literary or historical) jokes drawn in Kate Beaton’s insanely charming style. I am seriously obsessed with the way she draws; such doodle-y, messy lines create such lifelike expressions! If you like what you see be sure to follow her (@beatonna) on Twitter, if only for her adorable family comics around the holidays.

You Should Be Watching The Voice

Historically, I have not liked reality shows in general, nor have I liked singing competition shows specifically. HowEVER, Husby is a big fan of unscripted dreck so I’ve been exposed against my will. And folks, the Voice has forced its way into my Grinch-like little heart. I truly love it and you should be watching it. Here’s why!

Things I Like About The Voice:

  • Probably my favorite thing: coaches instead of judges. They’re invested in all of the contestants’ success , and they all seem to truly want to help baby artists begin their careers. Even artists who don’t make it onto the show usually get some useful feedback.
  • Similarly, Carson is a super charming host because he reeeeeally wants everybody to do well. He’s either sincerely rooting for every single person on the show, or he’s fantastic at faking it.

  • It seems like a really positive environment with none of the manufactured drama & infighting that goes on during most reality shows. To me, most shows are like, “hey let’s get a bunch of people who want to be famous and pit them against each other and see which one of them is good enough to survive,” but The Voice is like “hey let’s find super talented people and challenge them and find out which ones are the most amazing.” On Idol everybody always looks like they’re about to have a nervous breakdown and stab somebody because THEY MUST WIN. It makes me uncomfortable. But on The Voice, the win seems like a fun little afterthought that’s mostly a contest between the coaches… Like, the coaches tend to get competitive and trash-talk each other, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard that extend to the actual artists. The competitors themselves are very respectful and supportive of each other. Plus, everyone’s on a team, so it’s not Every Diva for Themselves. Once each team is narrowed down to a certain point, the contestants have basically “won” already; they’ve got a super influential mentor, they’re making tons of industry connections, a record deal is theirs to lose, and it’s mostly about honing their skills and building a fanbase to carry with them into a career after the show.  –  supportive rather than exploitative. I don’t know if this is editing or the actual culture of the show, but either way I love it.
  • Blake & Adam have an incredible bro-namic. Literally, they’re like two kid brothers in the backseat of a minivan and Adam won’t stop poking Blake and Carson is about to turn this car around but it’s usually very funny. The coaches all seem to like each other, and in my headcanon they are all best friends in real life and it is adorable.

  • The Voice tends to have a very high level of talent compared with Idol or especially AGT – I think they probably vet potential contestants before they’re allowed to audition. It’s usually people who have been performing professionally for a few years already but haven’t “made it” yet. I like this because they’re definitely dedicated to making music for a living, and usually know what direction they want to take their career. I think mentorship is most useful once you pass that threshold of experience where you know yourself as an artist. Of course, Husby prefers the Idol-style open auditions where you get kids who have never sung in front of people in their life and they improve dramatically over the course of the show, so this really comes down to personal preference.

 

Things I Don’t Like About The Voice

  • Blake & Adam have been on every season, but the other two coaches have alternated between Christina & CeeLo one year, and Shakira & Usher the next. I like a lot of things about this setup – good balance of consistency with variety. BUT, I would love a season with both CeeLo & Shakira, because they are my favorite temp judges! Christina & Usher are HUGE DIVAS.

  • On a similar note, if they go with completely different rotating judges on a future season, they definitely need to not do another blonde lady & black dude. Three sets would officially make it weird.

  • Sometimes Adam pokes big bro Blake a few too many times and it stops being cute and starts distracting from the show. Classic class clown behavior – I bet he was a terror as a child. Seems to be getting worse with each season so maybe they’ll reign him in eventually. Or tie him to his chair.

Seriously, even if you hate reality shows give The Voice a shot. Pleasant, not stressful, and a lot of great music. This season’s auditions just ended this week so you can jump right into the battle rounds without missing too much, if you’re convinced. Let me know who you think will win! I think I’m gunning for Team Shakira this year.

Put This in Your Eye Holes

You know what’s fun? Web series. They’re like TV, except they can do whatever they want and say whatever they want and tailor their stuff to smaller audiences, so you get fun non-mainstream content that would never make it onto a network. It’s amazing what people can do with a tiny budget and amateur actors and ***a dream***

So… What time is it? Recommendation tiiiime:

Journeyquest:

Journeyquest is a fantasy adventure series from Zombie Orpheus Entertainment that follows a party on their quest to retrieve the Sword of Fighting from the mythical Temple of All Dooms… But what will happen when they discover the bumbling wizard Perf is the Chosen One, instead of the party’s “brave” knight? Characters include a progressive barbarian usurper, an undead cleric, a sensitive orc, a gargoyle that always lies, and the bumbling bard who’s chronicling everyone’s shenanigans. The third season is currently in the works and I’m excited!

Space Janitors

We all know what life is like for the elite evildoers on everyone’s favorite Not-A-Moon – It’s all huge, ominous chambers and mind-choking, 24/7. But what do the underlings get up to in those circular halls… and who keeps the floors so very shiny? Space Janitors on Geek & Sundry tells the story of Darby, an ambitious janitor aboard a certain unnamed evil space station. Star Wars jokes abound and it is delightful. (“The more they disobey the Emperor, the more we tighten our grip. And the more we tighten our grip, the more systems will be held firmly in our massive space hand.”)

The Guild

Also on Geek & Sundry and created by Internet superstar Felicia Day, The Guild is an award-winning, super-popular web series… So popular, in fact, that you’ve probably seen it and it’s pointless for me to recommend it here on my humble Farmpartment. But hey, just in case… You should really watch The Guild. It follows the friendships that form when an online gaming guild decides to meet up IRL. There are plenty of gaming in-jokes, but it’s also accessible for those of us who don’t frequent the World of Warcraft. It’s clever, charming, and occasionally truly moving as the characters help each other grow. The show went six seasons and I think it’s done now… so you can binge-watch the whole thing. Hooray!

 

Those are my top 3 but there are plenty of other fantastic web series out there. Got any recommendations for me? Leave ’em in the comments.

Put This in Your Ears

So we’ve got an open layout at work – no cube walls, big room with at least 30 people in it.To anyone who makes layout decisions at their place of business, I… wouldn’t recommend this. It is L O U D and distracting and super awkward. All I can do is slouch down in my seat, keep the silent pact with the three people in my eyeline to never acknowledge each other, and keep my earbuds in as much as possible.

Last strategy is problematic for me because I’ve never been one to work with music. No idea why; I love music, but I think it tells my brain it’s Fun Time or something. Most of the time I use my White Noise app (I’m sure there are free ones; that one’s $1.99. Has a lot of sounds to choose from though, and you can mix them together) 

But if I’m working on something mindless and I want a little brain stimuli to keep myself focused, I’ve started listening to podcasts! Just the right level of engagement, without being too distracting.

In no particular order, here are a few of my favorite podcasts… Give ’em a try if you’ve got a similar work situation, or a long commute (or a lot of this Free Time I’ve heard legends of). All of these are on iTunes, and I’ve also linked to their own websites, below.

  • Welcome to Night Vale – If you try only one of the podcasts on this list, be sure to tune in to the community radio station of this sleepy (and fictional) desert town, where nothing is as it seems. Best to start from the beginning of this one, since there are a lot of callbacks and recurring characters. You can probably tell if you’ll like it or not from the pilot ep. Welcome to Night Vale is hard to categorize… It’s like if H.P. Lovecraft and Douglas Adams collaborated on a podcast. I’d maybe call it Bizarre Horror-Comedy? You really just have to hear it.
    Radio host Cecil Baldwin (the most soothing voice in the world) will keep you up-to-date on such community news items as:

    • The opening of a lovely new Dog Park (please note: neither dogs nor citizens are allowed to enter, look at, or think about the Dog Park)
    • Important announcements from the Sheriff’s Secret Police
    • The tense mayoral race between The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home, and Hiram McDaniels (who is literally a five-headed dragon)
  • Nerdist Podcast– Nerdist is the Internet empire of comedian & perennial host Chris Hardwick (who you may recognize from Talking Dead, @midnight, the Nerdist TV show on BBCA, or some thing on MTV when I was like 7, apparently). There’s a lot of great content on the Nerdist network, but my favorite is the titular podcast. Chris sits down and chats with a guest for an hour… often a comedian, sometimes actors or musical artists. Co-hosts Matt Mira and Jonah Ray join when possible. I say “chats” because it never feels like listening to an interview – it’s more like eavesdropping on a conversation between friends. It always seems like everyone involved is having a good time, and you end up hearing huge celebrities (huge as in: Harrison Ford, Joan Rivers, Billy Crystal…) get into some really genuine, personal stuff. Lots of interesting insider perspectives on the industry, too. This one you can just jump in wherever – pick a guest that you like.
    • The Indoor Kids – Also on the Nerdist Network: Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon talk about video games (and things tangentially related to video games) with a guest. I’m not even a huge gamer but they’re pleasant conversations. Kumail and Emily are married, so they have a cute dynamic.
  • The Dork Forest – A treasure trove of fascinating stuff, this one: Jackie Kashian talks with (seemingly pretty random) guests about their “dorkdoms” – the (definitely very random) subjects that they’re obsessed with. I’ve learned about monitor lizards, traffic court, and Vonnegut, among other things. It’s cool how someone really dorking out can make even obscure/boring subjects interesting. Sometimes it doesn’t do it for me and I skip an episode… sometimes I end up paying complete attention to international tournament regulations for the rubber on table tennis paddles. Completely unpredictable, and awesome.

Spandex & Sparkles at Sochi

So I’m gonna get real girly for the span of this post, k? Because I freakin’ love figure skating / ice dancing at the Olympics, so I give myself free rein to squee at spandex & sparkles every four years. SO here are my highlights (and lowlights) of costumes from the pairs competition that I just finished watching.

BEST THEME:

PINK PANTHER!!! (Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy, Germany, short program) ‘Nuff said. Super entertaining performance, too. They’re both really athletic.

BEST OUTFIT FOR REAL LIFE:

DIAGONAL STRIPES!!! (Vera Bazarova & Yuri Larionov, Russia, short program) For some reason I can’t find a good picture of this dress, but I legit love it. Drop that skirt to a reasonable length and I’d wear this everywhere. Diagonal stripes are super flattering… you know, for those of use who don’t exactly look like Vera Bazarova. And the dude looks CLEAN in all-black (can you tell from his disembodied head?).

MOST BADASS PAIR:

(Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov, Russia, team competition) They wore this while skating to the black swan theme from Swan Lake. Do they not look awesome?? Only thing I would’ve changed: I wish she’d pulled the nude tights over the white skates like they do sometimes, so there wasn’t such an abrupt contrast.

SURPRISE FAVORITE:

(Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov, Russia, free skate) This was only a surprise to me because when they first came out in this mustard-colored business, I haaaated it. But the look really grew on me and somehow became one of my favorites! I’m sure it helps that they skate so beautifully, and the costumes looked a lot better with movement. Small detail that might have pushed it over the edge for me, was the choice of white skates for her and black skates for him, which really works to balance the pair of outfits. And seriously, look at Maxim down there, he looks like an oddly graceful Russian pirate, what with the raggedy shirt and the bling and the hair. It’s kinda hot. And hey, the color worked its magic for them, because they left with the gold!

NOSTALGIC CHARM POINTS:

(Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, Canada, pairs short program) I don’t really know why I love this pink getup so much… It just seems so classic, with the white skates and the cute wavy bob and Meagan’s fantastic smile. Super endearing. Looks like the figure skaters I watched as a kid. Not so sure about Eric’s look but I bet it’s really comfortable?

BEST MALE OUTFIT:

Now this look on Eric, on the other hand, is FLAWLESS. Look at that waistcoat! And the ruffles! And the plaid pants! It’s fun and fancy without being flamboyant. Reminds me of Tennant’s Doctor a bit 🙂  This was from their free skate, and I love the whole look. Meagan’s dress was also pretty, especially the detailing on the front. That deep burgandy looks great against the ice.

 

DISHONORABLE MENTION:

WHAT ARE THESE MICKEY MOUSE PANTS?!? (Stefania Berton and Ondrej Hotarek, Italy, pairs short program)

Did I miss anybody? Who was your best-dressed pair?

Internet Travel Guide: 2/7/2014

“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”  – Mother Teresa

I like this thing comparing The Big Bang Theory to Community through a SFF lens. An interesting point in the linked article is that the structure of TBBT is almost the opposite of what is generally found in genre fiction – it does bare-miminum worldbuilding, nothing ever changes, and the characters develop extremely slowly. It can’t be enjoyed in a “nerdy way” – it has none of the hallmarks of shows with obsessive fandoms, like extreme attention to detail, lots of self-referential and/or meta humor, endless callbacks, plots/jokes requiring the viewer to figure things out for themselves, open-ended questions… etc. (Like Community, for example. Or Doctor Who, Arrested Development, Eureka, Lost, Archer…). Despite being a show about nerds, with lots of references to SFF and nerd culture, TBBT is actually a true sitcom, like Seinfeld: a show about nothing. It’s a show to watch with half your brain while the other half plays Plants Versus Zombies on your phone. There’s nothing wrong with that and it’s obviously extremely popular, but I find it interesting because  I bet Leonard, Sheldon, et al would be super bored by a show like TBBT.  On the other hand, they’d probably like Community – which, despite looking much more like a standard sitcom, has really become more like SFF. As the author says, Community “looks like a sitcom, but it’s bigger on the inside.” …Anyways go read that article, it’s great.

Speaking of expending too much brainpower on stupid pop culture things, here is a linguist talking about the grammatical rules of Doge, which is much, much more fun than it sounds.

Very linguist. So grammar. Much geek. Wow.

In honor of The Walking Dead mid-season premiere, I leave you with this awesome video of a kid pranking Norman Reedus:

You Should Be Watching Sleepy Hollow

You should be watching Sleepy Hollow. Yes, you. Seriously, it is my favorite new show of the year, and is on track to be my favorite show of all time ever.

Basic pitch:

You know the story of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman? Well, in this incarnation of that story, Ichabod was a British spy for George Washington during the American Revolution, and the titular villain is now a Hessian servant of a demon called Moloch. Oh, and also he’s the first Horseman of the Apocalypse.

So Crane decapitates this fella but is mortally wounded in the process. Luckily, he happens to be married to a witch, who puts him into magical suspended animation for 250 years. He awakes in present-day Sleepy Hollow… and so does the Headless Horseman, who goes on a bit of a decapitation spree.

Meanwhile, Lt. Abbie Mills and her mentor at Sleepy Hollow PD get a call that people are turning up without their heads. The mentor tragically becomes another victim. Abbie witnesses the Horseman as he rides away, and we discover that she had another supernatural encounter years ago as a child… so when an odd British stranger turns up claiming to be a contemporary of Paul Revere, Abbie is the only cop willing to listen.

Thus begins a beautiful partnership! Abbie and Ichabod discover that they are the Two Witnesses prophesied to fight against Moloch’s army for seven years, so… that’s what they do! And hopefully what they will continue to do for six more seasons. Other faces include Abbie’s estranged sister Jenny, her new boss Captain Irving and his family, her creepy coworker Andy, Ichabod’s witchy wife Katrina, and a “Sin Eater” Henry. The show basically settles into monster/mystery of the week, with fun side plots involving Ichabod’s struggles with modern life, and bigger overarching adventures. It is perfect and great.

Not convinced? Want an exhaustive list of things I love about it? Seen the show and want to geek out about it with me? OH BOY ARE YOU IN LUCK TODAY!!

***Careful, here there be (fairly minor) spoilers – Click to continue***

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