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Twitter WTF: Decoded

2 Mar

I’ve been on twitter for about a year and a half now on a daily basis, and one of the things that never fails to mystify me is the little cluster of Trending Topics on the sidebar. Hashtag fever is still an epidemic, and I find myself indulging in them myself on occasion, whether it’s to make fun of myself, denote something as a drunk tweet, or shamelessly fangirl at one of my favourite movies, TV shows or musicians.

The other purpose of hastags, it would seem, is to confuse the hell out of me every time I look over to the little Trending Topics sidebar. I find myself staring down the list of names, portmanteaued words and unintelligible nonsense, and click them only to find that most of the top hashtags are people asking ‘what the hell does #muttonchip have to do with anything?

So, after days and days of staring and pondering, I present to you Lora’s Trending Topics of the hour Decoded, as of 6:00pm CST on March 2nd:

Trending Topic #1: #Focusrally

This appears to be related to the Ford Focus, and it’s at the top of the list because it’s the Promoted Topic. It appears to be related to this and involves people driving across the country completing challenges, reality TV style. I assume the prize is they get to keep the car? I don’t know. The promoted TT’s seem to defeat the purpose of the concept to me, so I pretty much write them off as shameless adspace that keeps the glory of twitter alive.

TT #2: #sorryjustin

Guess what, another Justin Beiber TT. Because the whole ‘ZOMFUG Why didn’t Justin win a grammy whine whine my life is over’ fangirl twitter mess wasn’t enough, now there’s more drama? This twitter apology apparently comes from the fans due to the actions of a crazy fangirl who punched his girlfriend on his birthday? Or something? ‘Beliebers’ remind me a little bit of Twihards, and that’s not something I want to see more of in my life Twitter. Thanks.

Also, the Beibs is only turning 17? Dear Gog, America. You depress the ever living crap out of me.

TT #3: #tigerblood

This is apparently related to Charlie Sheen. And a fellow named Frank McCourt. I don’t know. All I care about with Charlie-boy is that finally they’ll stop making Two and a Half Men. Here’s a relevant link, for the confused or amused.

TT #4: #tipicasmentiras

Roadblock: I know no spanish, and that appears to be the language this originated in. I’m at a loss folks. Even google has given up on me in this case. I think it’s something to do with a facebook app, but the only way to find out was to give the app access to my info. This is harder than it seems folk.

TT #5: McLobster.

Okay, WHAT. Apparently McDonalds is really upping it’s game in the class factor, because the McLobster sandwich is real.
I kind of want to go punch the guy who came up with this in the gut. The words ‘Fast Food Lobster’ should ALWAYS be an oxymoron.

TT #6: Sleepwalker

This appears to be a reference to at least one song. So far Twitter thinks it’s related to an Adam Lambert tune. I’ve never heard it, and I can’t say I care enough about Adam Lambert to track it down, but that’s what that is I think. I guess. Twitter is a thrilling place today it seems.

TT #7: Fleur Agema

Fleur Agema is apparently a Dutch Politician, once again limiting my ability to understand why the hell she’s trending. But here‘s her wiki page, and I think a couple of the tweets referenced racism, so whatever it is, I’m sure it’s thrilling.

TT #8: McSushi.

Okay. No. Just. NO. But it’s real.
That sound? It’s the sound of my hope for humanity dying. Violently.

TT #9: Limburgers

This? I have no clue, but I’m guessing it’s not to do with the slightly pungent cheese. That would be just too boring for the world of gossiphounds and nutjobs that frequent the twitterverse. Or it might be something to do with the Dutch elections. I guess the Loop is off in the distance and I’m over here watching dumb TV.

That or it’s another Charlie Sheen thing.

TT #10: Selic

… yeah, not sure. I think though, judging from all the Portuguese, it’s something to do with this.

So that’s today’s Twitter roundup. Justin Beiber has crazy fans, McDonalds is still gross, and there’s a lot going on with the Dutch. That’s Tuesday in a nutshell on the Twitterverse.

Lora’s 8 Stages of Fandom

11 Feb

I know I’m not the only member of my friend-pod who suffers from chronic Fandom. Be it a webcomic, movie, TV series, mythos, culture, you name it, there are Fandoms everywhere, and I admit, I’m decidedly a part of them. To name a few, I’m an avid member of the following fandoms:

– Harry Potter
– Buffy/Angel
– Firefly/Serenity
– Doctor Who
– Torchwood
– Chuck
– Repo! The Genetic Opera
– Questionable Content
– Lord of the Rings
– My Chemical Romance
– Star Wars
– Star Trek
– Homestuck

Some of these, Homestuck for example, are recent fandom discoveries, and others like Star Wars have been part of my Fandom life since I was in the single digits of my life-age. While pondering this, I also pondered the steps I seem to repeatedly go through during my discovery and acceptance of a new Fandom into the squidgy hole where my heart used to be. After some more pondering, and eating some cheese, I compiled a rough list of my personal 8 stages of Fandom.

DISCLAIMER: Fandom is not the same for everyone. My coming to love a Fandom is different from many other folks’ journeys. A lot of the principles, however, are the same. So here it goes:

Stage 1: Discovery

“Hey, have you tried reading this comic? It’s really good!”

Discovery comes in many forms for a Fandom. Sometimes that Fandom comes to you through a close friendship or relationship (personal examples: Firefly, Chuck), sometimes through family (Star Wars, Angel) and other times through independent discovery (Doctor Who). Whatever the method, this is where Fandom begins, where the seed is planted and roots are put down.

Stage 2: Casual Perusal

“Hm, I’ll give the first chapter a try…”

This is the stage where the Fandom is explored. For Harry Potter fandom, for example, Perusal involves reading the original books written by JK Rowling. For TV shows, it’s watching an episode or two. For comics, it’s reading a page or three of the archives, and so on. My Perusal of Star Wars occurred when I was ten years old and watched the Special Edition of Star Wars: A New Hope with my parents. I remember little of the encounter, except that the seat I was given was too low and that it was really loud.

Stage 3: Abandonment

“Meh, I’m gonna go watch re-runs instead…”

Not a common stage, but a pattern I’ve recognized in my fandom journeys is that it takes a few tries for me to get truly invested in a Fandom. Examples of these ‘false start fandoms’ for me have included Harry Potter, Homestuck, Lord of the Rings and Chuck. It says nothing of their quality, just of my attention span. I can be facing the most amazing Fandom in existence, but if I’m distracted by something shiny, forget it.

Stage 4: Re-Occurrence

“Hm, this actually gets good once you get past the early exposition…”

This happens in a variety of ways. Perhaps a friend drags me to watch a movie I previously felt reluctant about. Perhaps I’m bored and my mind wanders back to a long-forgotten story that bears new discovery. Maybe I just didn’t get far enough into it. Whatever the reason, reaching true Fandom requires returning to that first discovery in some manner over a short (or long) span of time.

Stage 5: Devouring

“It’s 4AM and I have to be up in 3 hours but OH GOG I CAN’T STOP READING hlaghlasdghlghlgh”

A melodramatic term perhaps, but it’s the best way to describe the method one uses to absorb the items of Fandom. When a new Harry Potter book emerged, I absconded with it to my room and stayed there for hours, reading and ignoring all distractions. Webcomics kept me up until the sun came up with their storylines and drama. I systematically swallowed up whole seasons of TV shows in less than a week. This is where the build of the material is experienced, where the source becomes realized.

Stage 6: Obsession

“Wow, people actually write Buffy/Torchwood crossover fic?”

Once the material has been devoured, the signs of Fandom become abundantly clear. Perhaps it simply begins with a google search, or a conversation with friends, but before you know it you’re trolling Deviantart and Fanfiction.net to experience MORE of these characters and stories, to interact with others who share your passion. You integrate inside jokes into your vocabulary in the hopes others will notice and engage in conversation with you about your Fandom. The Obsession grows and leads you to new levels of nerdery you’d never consider. Like Shipping. And writing fanfiction. Or even drawing smutty slash art for friends.

Yes, in case you were wondering. I have done all of these.

Stage 7: Petering

“Maybe I’ll read this new book later, after I investigate something shiny.”

Similar to Stage 3. Sometimes the obsession comfortably dies, leaving naught but fond memories of times gone by. Other times they don’t and aspects of the Fandom become permanently integrated into your life, be it through cosplay, purchasing merchandise, or if you’re weird like me and have characters that run around in your head chattering at you constantly.

(Lemme tell you, it’s getting crowded in here with all the trolls).

Stage 8: Lasting Love

“Vriska, you’ve wedged your way into my heart and there you will stay. Even if you are shithive maggots.” *

The final stage demonstrates the staying power of a Fandom. Some are flash in the pan, brief infatuations that fade into the past, but others stay for years, decades even, and remain in your heart to inspire your actions, thoughts and dreams.

*Homestuck reference

So that’s my take on my experience with fandom. Others do it different, some have similar experiences. Whatever fills the gaps in your blood-pumping unit, I’m sure Fandom has helped you the way it’s helped me. Be a huge nerd. >.>

The Changing World of Videogames and Gamers

4 Feb

When I was a kid, I didn’t have a lot in the way of games, not compared to my peers. I had a gameboy pocket with two games when I was ten: tetris and pokemon: red. My primary exposures were through my friends and family. The first game I remember witnessing was my cousin, six months older than me, playing Doom on his computer when I was about eight. My best friend in elementary school had a Nintendo 64 and we spent many a day after school playing Bomberman while her sister babysat us.

As I grew up, a child of the early 21st century, I found myself wanting the consoles of my friends – playstations, nintendo consoles, the XBox, but I was hindered by the concerns of my parents. They weren’t overly strict, but they were concerned with the media intake levels of me and my sister. We didn’t own a real television until I was 12, and even then I was only permitted to watch for five hours a day, and only on weekends. Things changed, I grew up, and despite my rampant ADD and love of TV shows I also fostered a love of reading, and a healthy addiction to the internet.

Why were the videogames not encouraged? Most likely their novelty. Their realism. The frequent reports of violence, lethargy, irresponsibility and other such faults occuring due to games were heeded by my parents the same way they heeded the dangers of television rotting my brain. I grew up not necessarily deprived, but definitely without certain technological entertainment devices.

I don’t blame my parents – that’s not what this is about. It’s about the way games are changing, the way the market is changing, the prevalence of games and the new face of gamers.

Putting the fast forward button on my life, now I’m 23. I frequently play games on my computer, the internet, my boyfriend’s 360 and the PS3. I own a Nintendo DS. I enjoy games as escapism, as entertainment and as storytelling. Heck, at this point in my life I’m so invested in the gaming industry I’m hoping to go into law to help it grow and be defended from naysayers.

Clearly the face of gamers has changed. I’m female, first of all, and a social animal. Far removed from the original stereotype of the videogame geek living in his mother’s basement, clutching his controller with Cheeto-stained fingers. So are my friends – my boyfriend is a philosophy major who has been an avid member of the gaming community since childhood. He’s eloquent, well-adjusted, and a really good shot with a sniper rifle (In game of course).

The dark side of gaming exists. I’ve known and even dated guys who spend more time in front of the screen than with the outside world. Not just with World of Warcraft either, but other games. People still lose themselves in their alternate realities.

But that’s not the face of gaming in America any more. The face of gaming in America is so diverse in age, race, class and gender that most everyone these days could qualify as a gamer.

And I’m not the only one who thinks this is a good thing:

Jane McGonigal is just one of the people innovating gaming in the modern world. The idea of games improving the social connections of people and the overall mood of their lives is innovative, but valid. While I hate the concept of action-gaming consoles like the Kinect and Move, I appreciate the marketing approach companies are going for: family. Encouraging gaming as a family activity is changing the nature of games in people’s lives, their role. What used to be seen as an anti-social behavior, a lack of norm, is now becoming not only accepted, but encouraged.

The world is starting to open up. In a few years, I predict students will be taking classes to discuss the literary and philosophical ramifications of games like Bioshock and Dead Space the way I’ve studied graphic novels like Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home and films like The Maltese Falcon. Multimedia storytelling, in games and on the internet, is growing in prevalence, and is looking to become as common and as worthy of respect as film as an art form.

Videogames ARE art. They’re storytelling. They’re entertainment. They’re an exercise for the brain. They’re a way to bond with family, friends, and significant others. And they’ve changed as much as we have in the last few decades.

Sure, people argue that kids playing an excessive amount of games is unhealthy. I won’t argue, because too much of ANYTHING is unhealthy. If we foster gaming as a positive, networking experience, one that creates bonds instead of damaging them, we’ve moved forward in an age fraught with social technology encouraging distance.

I think we can do it. I’m willing to embrace games as positive social behavior. As tools for growth, as entertainment and art worthy of as much respect if not more than film.

This is the changing face of gaming in the 21st century. I’m a 23 year old female, and I’m a gamer. And I agree with Ms. McGonigal: the more of us who game, the more chance this world has of becoming a better place through a mutual sharing of something, through community.

And at the risk of ending on a sappy note, I just want you all to know that I fucking hate Super Mutants, and that Fallout 3 is awesome. *goes to track down some landmines*

Art Monkey Adventures: Digital vs. Hand-Drawn Art

30 Jan

About a month a go I bought a drawing tablet – an intuos4, small sized. Owning a tablet has been a goal of mine ever since I started my hack cartoonist aspirations, and so far it hasn’t been a disappointment.

I’m far more used to the mechanics of drawing on paper, and it takes time to get used to drawing while looking at the screen instead of down at the point where the pen connects to the canvas. That said, after a month of twiddling around making sketches, I’m completely in love with digital art, and here’s my reasonings:

1) I’m left-handed

Doesn’t seem like the biggest deal, but those of you in a similar way dexterity-wise know what I mean. Writing in spiral notebooks results in hand-cramps and uncomfortable adjustments. Drawing with pencil or charcoal can result in horrible smudging when your hand unintentionally wipes across the page. This problem is eliminated with the tablet. I can rest my hand on the side, on the drawing surface, anywhere, and my drawing stays clear.

2) No Erasers

Why do they get you to draw faint pencil lines for drafts? Because too much erasing damages the paper and the drawing. Tablet drawing equals as much erasing as you want, without any damage to the canvas. Drawings are cleaner, brighter, and better as a whole.

3) Your computer is your palette

I have a lot of art supplies. Boxes full of them: brushes, paints, markers, pens, pencils, everything under the sun. They get lost, they get damaged, they run out and if you want to draw anywhere that isn’t your apartment? You’re lugging a bunch of supplies around in your backpack. Tablet drawing means that your pen and your programs are your palette. You have photomanipulation software. A huge variety of colors and textures to choose from.

So that’s my love of my tablet. It’s a wonderful tool, and it’s taking me to places I’ve never been able to go with my art style.

But don’t think I’m abandoning traditional methods. Tablets are expensive – I had to wait four years before I could get one, and it was the smallest professional-grade item I could find. While lugging art supplies around is a pain, carrying around an expensive piece of hardware that could get lost, stolen or damaged is also a huge pain.

While I love these new forays into digital art, I can’t ever completely turn my back on drawing with pencils on paper, on paint on canvas, and it’s not just about the hardware or software. It’s the feel of it. The smell of prismacolor markers. The smudging of charcoal under your fingers to give a piece of artwork just the right touch.

I may only be an amateur hack, but I love art, and there are pieces hanging in galleries and on internet websites that demonstrate incredible feats of hand-created artistry. Art is part of history, part of culture, and traditional mediums will never go out of style in my opinion. There are some mediums of art that can never truly be transposed to the digital. Sculpture is one example.

But digital art also opens the door for beautiful feats of computer design. It allows a canvas to create complicated calculations of architecture. It allows for three-dimensional designs and models used in new forms of media and storytelling. CGI in movies. Videogames are foraying into art more and more these days.

There’s room for digital and traditional art in modern culture. I’m proud to say I’ll continue to happily indulge and experiment in both.

The Shiny, the All-Consuming Shiny

3 Jan

I had elaborate plans for my day. Plans involving writing, plotting, scheming, drawing maps and commissions.

Then this arrived:

That’s right folks. Tiger Direct got my sexy new laptop here a whole day early. My beautiful new Sony Vaio VPCF 13 is here and is running like a beautiful dream.

My new laptop, featuring my foot.

I haven’t given it a name yet (because I’m lame and give my computer names. My Netbook’s name is Virgil), but I’m fairly certain it’s a she. Don’t ask me why. I can sense gender in appliances and technology items. It’s a talent. But needless to say, she is quite beautiful. And will probably end up named after a character from mythology thanks to my classics minor and the amount of Battlestar Galactica I’ve been watching.

And what’s the first thing I’m doing with her?

Why, installing Starcraft II of course!

Now excuse me, I’m going to go get my Zerg Rush on.

EDITED: As of about 8:30PM I did a little research and with the help of my friend Sam, named my laptop Freya, after the Norse Mythological Figure. She’s kind of a badass goddess of love and war like that. 🙂