Thursday, July 31, 2008

Extree! Extree!

Woo! An extra post! Extra 'cause I was going to hold off 'til Friday. Actually this is just a cheap way to justify writing a short one (I've heard that before), but don't tell. A bud of mine directed me to this Strong Bad Email, which I'd shamefully forgotten about. But come on, people (or at least self)! I watched a hundred and eighty some of these things in a relatively short time span! Anyway, this is one of her favorites and with good reason; I think it pretty well sums up the whole shebang in one beautiful package. You should watch all of them, but at least watch that one.

Regarding names: is it funny that for a while the big impediment to starting this blog was deciding on a name? It may not seem that important, but I wanted to find one that would compel people to read it, just because the name was so good. After all, when all those many people are neglecting work to comb the blogosphere for the latest inane thoughts of somebody no one's ever heard of, how else do you make sure they're your inane thoughts? Beats me whether I came up with a winner, but I like it (it's got a good rhythm and has a bit of mystery), and success is so unlikely anyway that it probably doesn't matter, even if your blog is named "Stuff White People Like." Anyway, here are some of the earlier, and ultimately rejected, candidates:

Lights from the Blog - I like puns. If that's not clear yet, it will be soon enough. This one is decent and the whole name offers a sense of the fantastic, which is appropriate. On the other hand, the joke is a tad esoteric (who uses the word "bog" nowadays?) and even if people do make the connection to will-o-the-wisp, I probably don't want to suggest they'll be misled by my writings, to their doom. Bwahaha. And the name's a bit clunky. Good effort, though.

Blogdor - a nod to my homestar,, homeboy, Homestar, although it's really a nod to Strong Bad and his mighty creation that I linked to before (so I won't do it again!). Trogdor gets bonus points because a) the email is funny, b) it comes up again in later contexts and there's even a Burninator game you can play (after watching Strong Bad play it, of course), and c) the Trogdor theme is, awesomely, featured in Guitar Hero II. Still, it remains another esoteric joke, and doesn't really say anything about the blog's contents. The fact that such an obvious joke has almost certainly been claimed by others already is a minor concern.

Stuff Witty People Like - OK, I'm already out of names I actually considered. Truth is, I was so busy dealing with the other major impediment (reluctance to just sit down and write) that I didn't spend a lot of time coming up with solutions to the first. After Lights from the Blog and Blogdor, I'm pretty sure Sage Mathias was the next one, and in a moment inspired by a webcomic I'll write about another time, I simply thought "YES." But I don't want to quit yet so I made up this one. Actually it's not bad. If I do a spin-off or just another blog, maybe I'll use this. Don't take it! The point is that "Stuff White People Like" is a real blog, and a very popular one (or so I understand). Ripping off its sound is the natural reaction. I can think of another variation on this theme, but it's not appropriate for all ages. Never mind.

I resisted getting into the Eragon series (really called the Inheritance trilogy) because of the usual unjustified prejudice. I think in this case I assumed it was just riding the massive Harry Potter wave of children's (sort of) fantasy literature. Then I found a free copy of Eragon and a cheap copy of the sequel, Eldest, and thought, why not? It's got all the requisite fantasy ingredients: a massive world with magic, humans, elves, dwarves, dragons and other mythical beasts, and, of course, an evil tyrant. The title character is a farm boy who one day finds a strange blue stone that ends up hatching into a dragon (whoops). He becomes a member of the ancient (and mostly eradicated) order of Dragon Riders and is the only one who can save the world from the evil king. Formulaic it is, and somewhat predictable (as I read the two books I was reminded of Star Wars pretty frequently, which no doubt is itself derivative). Neither is it as well written or the characters nearly as compelling and believable as the masterful creations of Ms. J.K. Rowling. But author Christopher Paolini, who started writing this series at fifteen and is about my age (yikes), is certainly no poor storyteller, and his creation remains an intriguing adventure of which I am eager to see the resolution. Check it out, if you like this stuff. The final book comes out in September, and I for one...well, can wait, 'cause I have to. But if its release date got moved up a month and a half, I wouldn't mind a bit.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Round Two - Write!

OK, the title's not the best pun I've ever made. No, the best pun I ever made was...oh, yes, I promised I'd keep the posting shorter this time.

I came late to the Homestar Runner party. But that's OK, because this party never peters out, or pauls, er, palls, but stays ever mary. Merry. Sorry about that. I mean really late to the party - I remember a friend praising the merits of the site to me way back in the Precambrain Age, by which I refer to high school, and the site got its start in 2000. For whatever reason though, I didn't actually visit it until a year or so ago. Too bad - I could've used the laughs eight years ago. At least laughter doesn't spoil.

Whatever my writing talents, descriptive prose is not my forte. This may be an inevitable conseqence of so many childhood activities and attitudes, including a deeply-ingrained resentment of all descriptive passages in fiction as being boring distractors from the all-important parts where things actually happen. Perhaps that lack of interest in imagining the scene according to the author's specifications has to do with my poor drawing skills. Anyway, it's one thing to have no desire to describe the lavish interior of the mansion the protagonist has just entered and is about to destroy in a whirlwind of a fight scene with his mortal foe, and quite another to be unable to review something thoroughly because of not knowing how properly to assess it. So here's another way this little blog of mine, which I assure you I intend to let shine, can help me out, by forcing me to write in a style to which I am unaccustomed. Back to, Homestar Runner.

Of course, anyone attempting to describe the workings of has a disadvantage going in because it's so bizarre. Probably the best way to tackle the fearsome task of classifying it is as (webimation?) something of an animated, short-based sitcom. A very, very silly animated, short-based sitcom. Although the website is named after Homestar Runner, the real star of the show is Strong Bad, a diminuitive, pudgy...something, clad like a Mexican wrestler, only don't ask him to take off his mask, because it's not a mask. And don't ask him how he answers those emails with boxing gloves on. There are a lot of things to watch and do on the website - short and longer cartoons to watch, games to play, a podcast to download, and who knows what else because I've been too busy with what I consider the lynch pin of, the Strong Bad Email, or as he likes to call it, sbemail. What sounds like a relatively static experience - you the reader/viewer send Strong Bad an email on any topic and he answers it - is anything but. Not only is the whole process of reading the email out loud and then vocalizing the answer while composing it animated (and filled with sarcastic commentary by Strong Bad, who has no truck with poor grammar and syntax and likes to play with names, generally at the sender's expense), but every answer is accompanied by another lavish animation in which Strong Bad engages in some sort of shenanigans with his compatriots (not that he'd ever call them that). These include Homestar, who is rather stupid and the most-frequent butt of Strong Bad's jokes, but who has his own sly humor and occasionally gets the best of the situation; Marzipan, the resident female and Homestar's sometimes-girlfriend; Strong Bad's two brothers Strong Mad and Strong Sad, whose names sum them up fairly well, and the Cheat,'s own Snoopy, who despite being technically a pet spends much of his time producing music videos on his Apple-style laptop, doing DJ-duty at the local nightclub, and helping out Strong Bad in his crazy adventures. There are more characters of course, such as Homesar, whom I won't describe but you should get a good idea of the site's sense of humor when I tell you that this entertaining (albeit one-note) being was born out of a typo from a sbemail.

The emails range in length, but never exceed several minutes. And what you can't really appreciate until you've watched many of them is how much love and care goes into each one - each of these characters is perfectly voiced (Homestar's distinctive speech and intonation is a comedy goldmine in and of itself), and the animation is fantastic: far better than you would ever expect of an independent, non-commercial (at least initially) product. It's not on the level of The Simpsons by any means, but it's always believable and entertaining. There's often original music (or even the aforementioned music videos), not to mention an abundance of easter eggs, special content you can only find by moving the mouse over the screen until it indicates a hidden link (generally a suggestive word or object).

And it's always, always funny. There are close to two hundred sbemails now, and no duds. Most make me laugh (or at least grin like a maniac) all the way through. Everything is permeated with sly, good-natured humor and pop-culture references, all of which is clean. There's the occasinal crude joke but it never gets crass - you won't find any profanity or anything even remotely objectionable, other than sometimes-heavy use of the word "crap." Probably teens and the college-crowd will appreciate the tone of the humor most (Red Skelton this is not), but the jokes are often clever enough to appeal to anyone. At least, I think so. Check out one of my favorites here.

Of course, what you really should do is quit work and family time, and probably sleeping and eating just to be safe, and watch all the emails from the beginning onward. There is some (little) development, and it's my impression that everything else on the site sprung out of the events of the emails. Plus it's the only way you'll really understand the characters, and you want really to understand the characters. Or at least have some laughs. Which the emails will provide.

Guess the note on the names will have to wait. But one of the early possibilities was Blogdor.

The best joke I ever made (recently) was that this posting would be shorter. That was hilarious.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


I think I ought to have an Igor.

Not that I much feel like laughing in an insane manner, or engaging in anything worse than garden-variety evil, or even reanimating a patchwork corpse and then fleeing from it to the cold climes where it obtains a sled and team of huskies and pursues me, Iditarod-style, in the part of the story few know about. But this is an experiment, some mad science for a new day, and I don't know whether it will blow up in my face or result in a delicious new fruit-flavored concoction. With umbrella. These are not the only options.

One of my favorite moments in the fantastic Disney animated series Gargoyles: the nefarious Xanatos engages in a little reanimation of his own, and upon the success of the experiment, just when you're thinking "he's going to do it, he's going to do it, please, please don't let him do it," sure enough he throws back his head and crows, "It's aliiiiive!" Then he turns to his assistant (not an Igor, sadly) and says offhandedly, "I've always wanted to say that!" And just like that, the cheese is gone; the moment becomes a sly nod to cinematic stereotypes. This is Gargoyles' style, which ought to be a beacon to the world.

The idea behind this blog is simple, as it should be. If it becomes a vehicle with which to take over the world, well and good. If, more realistically, just three entities read it on any sort of regular basis, then I'll count myself lucky for having three readers and it will serve quite well as a practice arena in which I can hone my writing craft. Yea, for I am the dreaded Aspiring Writer, and with my Digital Pen I will smite poor grammar and humorless humdrummery everywhere! All while coining new, unnecessary words in the process. Actually I'll try to restrain the coinery, but I make no promises.

Regarding thematic consistency: don't count on it. I write as my whimsy takes me, which means I could attack from any direction! Any direction! Expect nothing, and you'll get everything. Or you might get nothing. But they say to write what you...well, you know, and I know what I like. And, to a lesser extent, I like what I know. So whether I offer a treatise on grammar so hilarious and captivating that you don't realize you're learning until it's far too late, or I rage against the latest machinations of my beloved (but occasionally misguided) Nintendo, I will also wax poetic, or at least eloquent, or at least waxy, on something I enjoy and think others might as well. Might be a movie, or TV show, video game or music CD, book, or who knows what? Webcomic, perhaps? Yes. I'll skip today's entry because I've already given you at least two recommendations. Of course, I gave neither of them the full treatment, which means material for at least two more posts! Economics, that's called. Or cheating.

The posts won't all be this long. There's always so much to say at the start of the relationship, then one day all the stories have been told and the conversation dries up and someone makes a romantic comedy. I promise I won't let that last bit happen, unless it's directed by Rob Reiner. (There's a third.)

That's it...for now. Next time on Sage Mathias: a note on the name! If I remember and look at my last posting, anyway. I'll try to update the blog at least thrice a week, more so if I'm feeling generous, at least until I get a regular pattern down. Tune in...sometime, and don't touch that dial. Unless it's large and red and has a sign with huge letters saying "DO NOT (under any circumstances) TOUCH," of course. No one could be expected to hold back then.