Other Ten Percent 6/24/14

Jun 24 2014

I dreamt that Kieron Gillen read yesterday’s post and got really angry about all the backhanded compliments and left a comment saying as much. Thankfully that didn’t happen so I’m sorry dream version of Kieron Gillen and this has been another edition of “Stupid Dream Theater” which is, apparently, a new recurring segment here at OTP. Anyway, actual content. Continue Reading »

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Other Ten Percent 6/23/14

Jun 23 2014

Oh hey, this is actually going out at the start of a day. Been a while since that’s happened. Hey, let’s go back to talking about writers because actually sticking to formats is for suckers.

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Other Ten Percent 6/20/14

Jun 20 2014

I was going to write up how Mallory Ortberg is a national treasure today but frankly you guys have heard that week in and week out for months. Basically I am in awe of not only how good her writing is but how prolific she manages to make that output. She writes the equivalent of a weeks worth of OTP most days and, unlike me, they don’t suck. Instead let’s do a quick TV recap.

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Other Ten Percent 6/20/14

Jun 19 2014

Wooooo Thursday. We continue with our “pretty awesome writers” series because I haven’t yet run out writers to talk about. It will end sometime between the end of today’s entry and the end of tomorrow’s entry depending on if I can come up with another writer to talk about tomorrow. Continue Reading »

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Other Ten Percent 6/18/14

Jun 18 2014

Oh right, I’m also writing these every day. Whoops. I got kinda distracted by a small errand in the middle of the day. Nikki had a new car now and it’s awesome! We can both do errands! Okay, luckily I had a topic queued up. Let’s talk about writers I like again.

In case it wasn’t clear from the last one of these I’m trying to stick to writers that don’t really get enough praise who do something interesting I think deserves more attention. We all know I like Joss Whedon, everybody likes Joss Whedon I don’t need to write 10000 words on it. Again. This week.

But I can’t quite decide if I talk about Ryan North as one of my favorite writers way too much or not nearly enough. We all know dinosaur comics so I can kinda skip over that except to say that it’s the first example of what I really admire in Ryan North’s work: he’s always willing to experiment.

If he has an idea his first impulse isn’t to interrogate everything that could go wrong it’s to just do the thing and see what happens. Sometimes the projects are super successful sometimes they are not so successful sometimes they are kinda successful at first but I haven’t really heard about them for a while and so now I’m not that sure anymore. Whatever. Who cares? Point is he’s trying stuff.

And lately he’s been trying bigger and bigger things which should spell disaster but instead has just shown that throwing things at the wall SCALES when you know what you’re doing.

First there was the kickstarter for his Choose Your Own Adventure Hamlet which was financially successful and I would argue successful as a pretty great book. Try it yourself and see, you can just buy it like a regular ol’ book now without crowdfunding anything.

Then he started his super successful run on the Adventure Time comic which not only won him a prestigious Eisner Award, it also won the even more prestigious “I read it on the plane on the way back from Hawaii and it was really really good” award from me.

It’s not that North’s writing is without flaws (some of the character relationships in his new original comic, Midas Flesh, for instance, are…confusingly cordial during a life or death struggle for the fate of the Galaxy) it’s that it’s always adventurous. Could this be why he’s the perfect writer for ADVENTURE time? (BRB, killing myself for that joke.)

There’s a sense whenever you read a Ryan North jam that he’s as excited as you are to figure out what’s going on and what’s going to happen next which I’m surprised and super happy to learn works as well when he’s writing 3 issue arcs about Finn and Jake breaking a time machine and traveling to an apocalyptic future where evil robots are destroying everything as it does for six panels.

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Other Ten Percent 6/17/14

Jun 17 2014

So today I’m just going to talk about just one thing I’m really enjoying and again this is going to be one of those theme weeks that is one until I get bored and it isn’t anymore but I think just in general I’m going to try and talk about some writing/writers I enjoy for a bit.

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Other Ten Percent 6/16/14

Jun 16 2014

Man, I was going to do these big posts that tie together like 5 separate things but I kept deleting the drafts because it turns out those topics had nothing to do with each other. Instead lets just talk about one thing because honestly it’s enough.

Seriously, I’m basically having you guys read a book today. Did you guys know Film Critic Hulk basically wrote a screenwriting book? I didn’t before this weekend and its existence was basically the only really valuable thing I learned reading all of AVClub’s 391 articles on Game of Thrones for the finale.

It’s in the form of two blog posts (though he’s also had somebody edit the thing and released it as an eBook on Amazon and iBooks) and it touches on basically everything I’ve ever seen about writing for film or television and quite a few things that I hadn’t read before that were really valuable. Also he explains why indy movies have pissed me off for a decade in what’s basically an aside and I really appreciate that.

I kinda had a distressing class last week that subconsciously freaked me the hell out for a few days. I brought in something I didn’t think was working and hoped people would tell me it was secretly great. This is a terrible plan and I am never doing it again. The basic realization was that five years of writing regularly didn’t make me a hugely better TV writer since I wasn’t writing TV scripts. While I’m sure the experience will translate SOMEHOW at the moment I feel like I’m on a bit of a plateau where all my writing sucks and I can only see being better in the far far distance.

Anyway, reading all 30,000 words of that thing really helped me out. Not only did it help address the more philosophical concerns about how getting better just kinda sucks and takes a while there were several specific exercises to be doing that help me feel a sense of forward momentum while I keep walking through this flat plain of not being able to write scene direction to save my life.

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Other Ten Percent 6/13/14

Jun 13 2014

Man I wish I had a topic for today. I kicked around a half dozen at various points today that got rejected either for not being interesting enough (who wants to read about what I’ve learned about Hawaii?!?!) or too negative (Let’s discuss congress for 2000 words) or for just being too weird (I wanted to write a really detailed account of an occult ritual that ended up being how they chose the plot of the new Transformers movie). In the end I never came up with anything so join me in the next paragraph where I start writing words and then stop when I reach a natural end or just get to like 500 words and give up.

So when I was going to write up a whole thing about how incurably fucked the startup scene has left the political situation in San Fancisco it was going to be centered around the work of start up millionaires and billionaires to rebrand giving their companies tax breaks and avoiding any regulation as a newer, sexier kind of libertarianism. Sometimes this is hilariously literal as in the two guys who got Rand Paul to come speak at their rally for “conservatarians.”

But much more often it’s a way of rebranding the singularity as a fundamentally conservative endeavor, as in the case of these tweets by Venture Capital emperor and living Pillsbury Doughboy Marc Andreessen. Eventually tech startups will usher in a future where has to work and nobody dies and we all just get to sit around thinking big thoughts in between jumping tall buildings in our sweet robot bodies so the job of government, the logic goes, is to get the fuck out of the way so we get there as soon as possible. Anybody the tech industry destroys should be taken care of by a social safety net in the interim.

As that Slate article points out the hole in this logic is that the tech industry has no interest in building a social safety net and in fact does everything in its power to avoid contributing to one. But more and more since reading it I’ve been fascinated by the idea of them NOT doing that kind of bullshit double think.

Imagine if Google spent half the time it’s currently spending figuring out how to make self-driving cars that don’t flip out every time it snows figuring out how to feed everybody on earth. It’s not like there’s not radical tech solutions here, 3D printing, drones and pretty much every other high-tech thing Silicon Valley can’t stop drooling over has tremendous implications for stopping homelessness, world hunger, disease and war. The problem, of course, is that disrupting those things has no buyer. Remaking the world’s financial markets to disrupt inequality COSTS money. So why bother?

I’m not wild about the idea of Google replacing the government for any number of reasons. For starters I’m not actually ready to give up on actual government just yet, but so long as GOOGLE is this enthused about the idea of making social services obsolete I wish they’d fucking get to it already.

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Other Ten Percent 6/12/14

Jun 12 2014

I was going to keep writing about things that were driving me insane but I dunno, Hawaii kinda drained the indiscriminate rage right out of me until today’s post about the absolutely batshit political nature of SF became a much more positive post about how we really can dedicate ourselves to fixing the world and get that done through organized action became me feeling too chill to even write that up right now because I just generally felt like people are doing good things and life isn’t going so bad. So, instead of any of that I’m going to talk today about one of my favorite topics when I’m in a good mood: the impossibility of communication and how it isn’t really impossible and how we’re getting a handle on this you guys. Things are going to be O.K.

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Other Ten Percent 6/11/14

Jun 11 2014

Today we continue with our unofficial “nerds are awful” week by discussing this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo or “E3” the industry’s premiere convention for both watching CGI trailers that tell you what genre new video games are going to be in and being ushered into back rooms to watch somebody else play a game for 5 minutes while somebody explains how cool it will be when you get to play it yourself.
The part where people announce the video games that nobody’s going to wait in line to actually play at the actual convention center is winding down so I think it’s pretty safe to call what the big story of E3 is this year and it’s this Polygon story that has a really crazy web trick going on at the top of it. What is that, video? No it follows your cursor around. Jesus let me pull up the source here. This is some A+ Javascript bullshit. Somebody’s got a centerpiece for their portfolio now.
What? Video games? Oh sure I can break that part down for you.
Do you have a video game that you enjoy? They are making a sequel to it. Of course they are. Did they say that they wouldn’t for a long time? Don’t worry, they were lying. They were always going to make a new one because you will buy that video game. That thing you liked about the last game? There will be more of it in the new game. Development is still ongoing but they’re estimating there will be 2 to 3 times as much of that thing you like in the new version of the game that you enjoy.
Literally the only exception to this is Zelda which has just been doing that thing you like over again for so long that people don’t like it anymore, or, well, they still like it but they write long articles about how people shouldn’t like it anymore because it is the same thing. To combat that criticism Zelda will now do the thing you liked from another game in the same genre. This will work.
I don’t mean to say there’s nothing worthwhile at E3. I am not actually at E3. I have actually never attended E3. There was a year when I was a kid when it was in Atlanta and I thought about it but that was the year they stopped selling passes and you could only get in with press credentials and that wasn’t going to happen. I’m trying to say that what E3 is obsessed with is just about the least interesting part of video games if you ask anybody but 15 year old boys. So it’s a real shame the industry still thinks that’s the entire industry.

I’ve been to the Game Developers Conference a few times and it’s much more my speed. There’s still a lot of people trying to convince you to tell people to buy their video game but that stuff’s kinda pushed off to the sidelines. It’s all under NDA or a chance to play a cool update to a game people didn’t give enough of a chance. It’s all weird compared to E3 demos and it’s not even the center of the show. Most of GDC is centered around long talks and debates around the best ways to make video games technologically, philosophically, and, increasingly, morally.
What I’m trying to say is that at E3 that all gets reversed. Those discussions still go on but they go on off the show floor after all the CGI trailers and press releases that take up most of your day. When you and your buddies and their buddies who quit games journalism and now work at whatever game developer get together and have drinks you talk about all that same stuff to avoid thinking about all the work that you’re not doing that’ll keep you up all night. This week though all of that is off the record. You can’t talk about it in a news story if you want to still have buddies at the end of the conference.
And since the only thing you’re actually allowed to talk about is the trailer you linked to in the first paragraph if you know what your doing (or hid behind 5 paragraphs of bullshit and a “read more” link if you’re a jerk) what you actually talk about is subtext. This isn’t great for reporting since nobody likes writing up 800 words on something that MIGHT be happening but its even worse for the games industry because they’re really really bad at subtext. They’re bad at subtext about women. They’re bad at subtext about violence. They’re REALLY bad at subtext about violence against women. REALLY BAD.
The result is that even when I’m excited about the new games coming out (and I mean I’m buying the shit out of that open world Zelda game. I’m not made of stone.) E3 always leaves me feeling exhausted because it’s a week long celebration of the games industry’s complete disdain for its audience on every level. The strategy is always to show as little as possible (because games journalists can’t be trusted to know how development is actually going) of content that’s as generic as possible (because consumers can’t be trusted to buy new, scary things) and then by and large that plan works and I really need a drink.
Christ, maybe I should have gone to E3. The people there seem to have the right idea on how to react at least.

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