Thursday, June 17, 2010

E3 on TV

Geez, just two years away from reviewing things for a daily newspaper and I've lost my edge. I know this because I've been enjoying the G4 network's coverage of E3 this week. And really, that coverage is only monumentally mediocre. Objectively, it deserves a huge ration of scorn. But I can't muster it.

Here's the bottom line: The coverage is 50 percent missed opportunities, and 50 percent the next best thing to actually being at E3. I'm so happy with the latter 50 percent that I'm forgiving the lapses. There should be a steady flow of interviews with industry analysts and journalists who could counter -- at least a bit -- the torrent of hype from the game developers and publishers who have gotten all the camera time. All I've seen over, hmm, maybe seven or eight hours of viewing is the self-promoting stuff. The G4 hosts/commentators/interviewers add next to nothing in terms of intelligent discussion, and the range of games being featured is fairly narrow (shooters rule, y'know?). Still, I've kept watching because the difference between getting an extensive look at game action, which is the G4 sweet spot, and reading about a game in print coverage is often the difference between being eager to know more about a game and not. Valuable radar, I think.

(As an aside, there's one G4 personality I think is quite good -- Adam Sessler. Now, I know Sessler a bit from the years I was covering games and E3, and I've always thought he was legit. Maybe that's a bias, because it has been in my head for so long. But as I watched the E3 broadcasts, I kept thinking that his questions, opinions and overall tone were shaped by some darn obvious smarts.)

Don't over-analyze what I'm saying. I don't want the G4 equivalent of CNN and Fox News political coverage, with drawn-out, talking-head potshotting. But there ought to be some snippets of depth to sprinkle in with the ooh-ahh breathlessness. That's all I'm suggesting. I did, after all, stay tuned in. I've been to a bunch of E3s, I've covered E3s, and G4 made it all familiar and fun again. My edge is gone, but honestly, I'm OK with that -- well, this week, anyway.

Monday, June 14, 2010

E3 and your newspaper

(First, a short note of explanation. Once again, this blog went quiet for a while. The reason: Two friends, both exceptionally influential in my life, died during the past couple of months, and the sense of despair I felt was overwhelming. The energy to blog disappeared. Still, I know what that seems to say about the relative value of this kind of writing -- that it's utterly dispensable. Well, not utterly. I think it's worth something, and if I think that, it can't keep going on vacation. So starting now, I'll give it yet another whirl. And if I can't sustain it this time, then we'll all know that I should vacate the space permanently)

I'm going to pick up the thread of previous posts later this week or next. But I want to jump on a topic that's particularly timely:

The E3 video-game convention is in full swing in Los Angeles, and it's the perfect yardstick for judging whether your newspaper, wherever you live, has any chance left to be meaningful amid the wreckage of the news-on-paper industry. Unless your paper carries substantial daily coverage from E3, it has almost no chance of being relevant going forward. If it can't recognize the importance of E3 -- which is culturally, financially and technologically significant on a national scale -- it's never going to keep up with American life in the 21st century.

That sound like an amateurishly inflated statement? Then you're out of touch. Video games are pivotal in understanding how entertainment is influencing us. The companies behind them matter on Wall Street, and the money spent by consumers is telltale about family life. Perhaps most intriguingly, games are always on the cutting edge of technology. If your newspaper misses the E3 story, which percolates over several days, its news sense is probably hopelessly moribund.

I can't be at E3 as I used to be, but there are interesting windows on the convention I may want to comment on (the G4 cable network's coverage, for instance). In the meantime, watch your newspaper for signs that it's really trying to grapple with how news is shaped as of 2010 . . . or is completely adrift.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Steampunk, comics deals and Star Trek

Here's an excellent example of how I'd like to tailor this blog. There certainly will be room for spirited discussion (hinted at in the previous post about whether pop culture conventions are kid friendly). But I'm going to try to concentrate on information you can put to work for yourself -- depending on your interests, of course. Here, then, are three potentially useful tidbits from last weekend's WonderCon:

-- The convention serves diverse tastes. My best overheard moment was when a young woman approached a dealer booth and exclaimed with loud joy: "Whoa, is this steampunk wear?!'' Apparently it was (my expertise on the topic is nil). If that means something intriguing to you, the web site for that dealer is here.

-- I had the best comic-book buying experience of my life. I was interested in a nice copy (approaching Fine) of the Justice League of America No. 3 (origin/1st app. Kanjar Ro). The dealer, whose New York-based company is HighGradeComics, was a no-nonsense type who told me there was room to dicker (after I politely suggested his price and condition estimate were slightly higher than I thought correct). I named a price I liked; he said, heck, he'd go LOWER, named the amount and I said, "Sold.'' I'll be checking out his Web site and you may want to as well. The link is here.

-- I had a nice chat with Suzie Plakson, who played the half-Klingon K'Ehleyr on "Star Trek: The Next Generation." Plakson has plenty of other acting credits, but I focused on STTNG -- and the sculptures she makes from Polymer clay. She had some little ornamental pieces with her, and I bought one she signed as a gift for someone. You can get a better sense of everything about her, including her sculptures, at her Web site, linked to here.

Next up: I'll return to the subject of superhero rings from ArrobaSilver.

Friday, April 2, 2010

WonderCon: crowded

I spent almost six hours today at WonderCon in San Francisco -- the event appears to be well worth attending this year (and I haven't always been a fan in recent years).

But if you're interested in going Saturday or Sunday, be advised: It was fairly crowded, despite the fact that it was a work day and that people arriving during its opening hours experienced some nasty weather. So that suggests it's going to be absolutely jammed for the rest of the weekend.

Still, the crowd had a nice vibe. Yes, that means I once again enjoyed seeing significant numbers of pink- and purple-haired women in anime and superhero costumes. Even better, though, was the deliriously-happy-to-be-an-obsessed-fan spirit that seemed to infuse everything. My favorite moment probably was when "Blackest Night" writer Geoff Johns was asked to explain the difference between love and compassion -- in the context, obviously, of the emotional spectrum of multi-colored Green Lantern-type power rings, which represent love and compassion, willpower, rage and more. Heavy, huh?

Is WonderCon kid friendly? Well, put it this way: alert parents will be able to navigate the convention without feeling irresponsible. Again, they DO need to be alert to what may be at an 8-year-old's eye level in any given aisle on the dealer floor. But -- and I've written about this in the past with a greater sense of worry -- nothing seemed egregious to me. Pop culture, including the mainstream media pop culture that's all around us daily, is increasingly mature in its content. WonderCon reflects that (in both positive and negative ways), and smart parents just have to cope with it.

I'll have more WonderCon observations over the next couple of days, but I want to get this posted at an hour when people making plans for tomorrow might see it.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Someone you know will like this, part 1

My signature possession is a large ring, worn on my right hand, that features the Green Lantern symbol (Hal Jordan variety). It was purchased quite a while ago at a branch of the first generation of brick-and-mortar Warner Bros. stores.

The ring -- I'll have more to say about it, plus photos, in a future post -- provides extraordinary weekly confirmation of how important comic books are in this society. The GL symbol is hardly on the order of, say, the American bald eagle or the Nike swoosh, just to cite two other wildly disparate emblems. Or at least you wouldn't think so. And yet, the number of people who recognize it (and smile) is astounding -- bank tellers, waiters, checkout clerks and attentive women (I might be exaggerating about one of those categories). If you know someone who's really into superheroes from the classic DC lineup, I've been checking out something they'll probably be interested in:

Hit this link and you'll visit the ArrobaSilver jewelry store on eBay, a DC product licensee (I confirmed that with a DC spokesperson). Products include an assortment of intriguing Green Lantern, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Flash rings. When I relaunched this blog, I said I was doing some shopping that would allow me to offer useful consumer advice. Based on the years of reaction to my current GL ring, I have to think there's huge potential interest in similar merchandise. If you check out the eBay store as a first step, the review I'm planning will be more relevant.

And that's why I'm holding off on the actual review for now. But I will say that my initial purchase arrived, the buying experience was good and my first impressions about what I received are quite favorable. There's more to recount, however, and I also think I want to interview somebody at ArrobaSilver. If you're wondering, I have no business association (and no family or friend connection) with ArrobaSilver, and I made my purchase just like any other customer. In the course of asking some pre-purchase questions, I did tell an ArrobaSilver representative that I might be interested in interviewing someone for my blog, but I can't detect any sign of getting the slightest special treatment (c'mon, this blog is far from wielding that kind of clout).

So check out the store, shoot me any questions or comments you have, and sometime soon, I'll have a review.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

This blogging thing, part 2

No one wants to blog in vacuum, right? But I haven't figured out how I'll feel if, after a number of months, I've only got a small and extremely casual readership.

I do know that I don't need dozens of comments per week for a sense of validation. Comments will flow in more or less naturally, or they won't. I'm not going to twist myself out of shape about it.

That said, I'm going to briefly react to the fact that I got one stray, sniping comment this week (hey, a grassroots reader!). I think I also got one (two?) last year when the blog was starting to gain a little momentum and attracted some flattering and/or thoughtful feedback. So, I've decided to turn on comment moderation.

Yes, it feels a little silly, given the exceptionally niche status I have so far. But I don't want to open up this space for the kind of nonsense bedeviling so many sites -- namely, a stream of ad hominem attacks and general craziness. Some bloggers agonize about acting like censors, even when all they're doing is cutting off the nut jobs and haters. Not me. I came to peace with this when I tried to keep my portion of a newspaper blog as unrestricted as possible. All it did was encourage the type of behavior that should always be blocked.

Comment space here is limited to civil discourse. Strenuous civil discourse, fine. Vileness, no. My call.

Oh, and I'm also past caring if the comments don't land here when I tease to a post through Facebook. The pattern is that some folks hit the link, read here, but react on Facebook. Glad they're reading, glad they're commenting in any way. As time goes on, I think a fair amount of you will find me useful or diverting. That certainly would be validation if it's really measurable.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Kirby or Lee?

The New York Times ran an excellent, comprehensive story Sunday on the legal battle between the heirs of the late comic book artist Jack Kirby and Marvel Entertainment. The issues are complicated, but the heart of the wham-pow-smack attorney-powered slugfest is copyright ownership -- and all the related monies -- involving iconic characters that Kirby helped create (the X-Men, the Incredible Hulk, the Fantastic Four and more).

The article, by Brooks Barnes and Michael Cieply, is intriguing for a variety of reasons, including the way it seeks to get a handle on the tactics of the lawyer for the Kirby family, Marc Toberoff. But what I liked best were the insights about the nature of the overall comic book industry. And the most resonant part of all was the observation that the legal dueling would reignite a huge discussion about the relative importance of Kirby's contributions compared to those of co-creator Stan Lee, writer and editor.

No kind of mystery interests me more than sorting out the credit for collaborative genius. I think that's because I'm so dubious about the notion of anything with real creative energy being even a roughly 50-50 effort. My guess is that it's more like 70-30 every time, and in the case of Kirby-Lee, my curiosity is persistent, given the cultural power of their work.

It's trendy to lean toward Kirby as the bigger influence. I lean toward Lee, perhaps because a good deal of the material Kirby did without Lee leaves me completely indifferent. But it has been a long time since I heard any minutia obsessed fanatics debate the topic intensely enough to do real honor to comic book geekdom. I'm going to be delighted if it actually ends up chronicled in the Times.