Sandsday Feedback Open Thread

I want you to check out my comic strip and tell me what you think. What do you think of the strip so far? What do I do well? What are your suggestions for getting better? Any questions or comments you may have on the strip are fair game.

(I’ve linked to this page from the strip so anyone who reads the strip is likely to be drawn here.)

I absolutely welcome ideas for specific strips, but I prefer that ideas I might use not be presented in a public forum before I use them. You can post them here, but I prefer if you e-mail me at mwmailsea at yahoo dot com.

Comment away!

Thoughts on the Oscars

It seems very odd to me that the 50th Grammys, the 50th Daytona 500, and the 80th Academy Awards would all fall in the same year, indeed the same month.

I watched two of the three, and the broadcasts of the latter two made sure to reflect on the historic nature of the moment. Before the presentation of the acting awards and Best Director, the Oscars showed montages of presentations and acceptance speeches past.

I honestly don’t have much to say about the awards themselves, though I am glad that, for the most part, the awards themselves are the focus of the Oscars, unlike some awards shows I know.

I did see one interesting tidbit on Tim Dirks’ Filmsite: Every one of the Best Picture nominees could be classified as an independent, low-budget film. In fact, by Dirks’ count this was the third straight year where the Best Picture nominees were bankrolled outside the big-budget studio system.

There has always been a disconnect between the popular films and the critically-acclaimed best films that win Oscars. Could we be seeing the start of another disconnect – one that could start seeing big studio films disenfranchised from the big awards at Oscar time? Could the Oscars start doting over indy films like mad? Could it become little more than a film festival?

Not to say the nominees were overly artsy, or even unpopular. Lord knows I’ve seen plenty of ads for Michael Clayton, No Country for Old Men, or There Will Be Blood. From what little I know of them, those movies deserve every inch of praise they get. There’s no real danger of Best Picture going to a film as artsy as, say, The Seventh Seal in the near future.

Well, at least let’s hope not.

In any case, this seems as good a time as any to plug my 100 Greatest Movies Project, an attempt to present the definitive list of greatest movies by combining all the lists that have come before. It will be a celebration of the history of film and a chance to find out what really makes a great film. If you consider yourself a movie buff, a true movie buff that appreciates true greatness in film, consider writing for the Project (with full credits) and bringing some of the great films to life. If you’re interested, e-mail me at mwmailsea at yahoo dot com or comment on this post.

A word for anyone who wants to see more than just a particular day’s strip

Could you please make sure you have cookies turned on until further notice? Or at least have it set up so that Bravenet won’t idiotically count it as a separate hit every time you look back through the archive? I swear, once SiteMeter gets this “multiple counters on one account” thing nailed down I will run away from Bravenet so fast it’ll make your head spin…

The future of open-wheel racing

In the end, we all learned the number 1 rule of open-wheel racing: Don’t bleep with the Indy 500.

Now that open-wheel racing in the United States is unified once again, the unified racing body can turn its attention to repairing the damage done by the Champ Car-Indy Car war. On that front, I have a few suggestions for what to do going forward:

  • Recognize that the war only helped NASCAR’s rise, but was not solely responsible for it. NASCAR was arguably bigger than open-wheel racing even before the split, or at least before it really started punishing then-CART.
  • Decide right away whether or not you can take on NASCAR. If you think you can (and last year suggested NASCAR may be plateauing), be aware you may need a 10-year plan for it, and hope for NASCAR mistakes. Push what makes your sport distinct, run races in places NASCAR doesn’t, and leverage the passion of the fans you have. If you don’t think you can, focus on carving out a solid niche and consider running some races overseas. Either way, immediate financial solvency should be the immediate goal if you don’t want to get absorbed into NASCAR.
  • Reclaim the North and West for yourselves. CART was more popular than NASCAR entering the 90s because NASCAR was a southern sport and IndyCar racing was popular in the north. The Kasey Kahnes and Jeff Gordons of the world should not be running off to NASCAR. Rebuild the infrastructure that was there before.
  • Marketability! You can attract eyeballs if you can market your drivers. You can keep drivers if you can create marketing opportunities for them. Plugging the hell out of the likes of Danica Patrick is your friend. But whoever your best drivers are, they should be appearing in advertisements and making other appearances if you want to even have a chance to keep them from jumping ship to NASCAR.
  • Either fix the problems that caused the split in the first place, or recognize that they are unfixable. The IndyCar series has fallen victim to many of the same problems that caused it to split from CART in the first place. The barriers to success for Americans are especially vexing because of how far open-wheel racing has fallen due to the war. Make it more affordable and try and find more American oval tracks. If you recognize they are unfixable, take steps to appropriate them for your own benefits, and work to overcome them.
  • Everything revolves around the Indy 500. I actually doubt Tony George wanted to “win” the war, only create a series to compete with CART. “Winning” and becoming the de facto open-wheel leader since about 2002 if not before only led to IndyCar inheriting CART’s problems. But the Indy 500 is the only race that matters and, despite declining ratings as a result of the war, it is more than twice, if not three times, if not four times as popular than any other open-wheel race. Any effort to rebuild the sport must revolve around putting your mark on the Indy 500, and rebuilding its prestige. Daytona is one of the biggest races on Earth, but that it is more than twice as big as Indy is unacceptable.
  • ESPN is your friend – or at least it used to be. ESPN must be an equal partner in rebuilding open-wheel racing, since they, along with ABC, are showing your races. But they were probably more inclined to do so before they also started showing NASCAR races. Still, they need to plug their IndyCar broadcasts during NASCAR and generally plug that IndyCars are still here, they exist outside the Indy 500, and they’re coming back.
  • Don’t completely destroy what Champ Car left behind. Only a smattering of Champ Car events are on the 2008 schedule. That doesn’t include some Champ Car events that were serving as the series’ lifeline in its later days. Completely junking almost everything about Champ Car will only alienate its fans. And it may have had only a few fans, but you need all the open-wheel fans you can get to serve as a base to grow on!

Of course, this only matters to one person other than me.

I made a change to the webcomic that you probably won’t – and shouldn’t – notice. Previously, I had stored three variables in the metadata database: the strip number, the date, and a third field to preformat the date for display on the page, since I didn’t know how to use PHP to format a date I was only allowed to enter in one format. Well, last night I figured out how to do just that and the date will now be automatically calculated from a field designed to store the date.

I don’t know whether that will make it faster or slower. What I do know is I’m proud to have figured it out without trying to upgrade (or waiting for Freehostia to upgrade) PHP.

PS. I wrote the post below last night but my Internet started acting freaky at the worst possible time.

If you ever see me in person, remember…

I am the definition of someone who is not a people person. If I’m not actively doing something, my mind is constantly drifting off thinking about semi-random things that interest me. If I’m jolted out of this by things not being the way they should be in a perfect, ideal world – if I’m forcibly pointed towards an imperfection – this annoys me because a, I’m no longer focusing on my own thoughts, and b, I don’t like imperfection.

I try to focus more in classrooms and to tune out more in broader public settings where I don’t need to concentrate so much, but it kind of goes against my nature, or at least my hard-set habits.

Most. Overrated. "Dunk." Ever.

So I’m watching the NBA Dunk Contest and I see Dwight Howard put on a Superman getup and cape and try a dunk and everyone is proclaiming it the greatest dunk ever while the judges are giving it all 10s, and I’m thinking, How is it the greatest dunk ever WHEN IT WASN’T EVEN A DUNK?

So today I’m watching ESPN and I’m hearing that other people are pointing out it wasn’t a dunk and I’m relieved that other people feel the same way I do. And just now I hear ESPN Radio’s Mike and Mike on SportsCenter claiming it wasn’t a dunk because it was somehow BETTER than a dunk!

And that snaps it into focus for me. No one’s getting at my REAL problem with this “dunk”. Namely, that even if it was a dunk it’s not that great of one.

First, let’s consider why it ended up not being a dunk. Namely, he doesn’t quite fly enough to reach the rim, so he has to throw it the rest of the way and hope it goes in. He not-dunks it because he’s not good enough to real-dunk it! Now, you might say he throws it with such force and power that that’s what Mike and Mike meant by saying it was better than a dunk. You’re entitled to your opinion. But WHEN YOU PUT ON A SUPERMAN CAPE IN A COMPETITION THAT REWARDS HIGH FLYING, I EXPECT TO BELIEVE YOU CAN FLY! IF YOU CAN’T EVEN REACH THE RIM, THE SUPERMAN CAPE HAS ONLY CREATED HIGHER EXPECTATIONS AND IS ACTUALLY A DETRIMENT TO MY OPINION TO YOU! IF YOU’RE GOING TO PUT ON A SUPERMAN CAPE THE LEAST YOU COULD DO IS ACTUALLY REACH THE RIM!

Second, let’s say he DOES reach the rim and throw it down. Take away the Superman cape and what do you have? A rather pedestrian dunk! So far as I can tell he wasn’t intending to do anything special with the ball. He was going to catch it, head up to the rim, and dunk it. It’s essentially the basic alley oop with a running start. There is no way that cuts it in the dunk contest! That’s about as basic a dunk as you can have when you have someone passing you the ball! That’s not worthy of all 10s by a long shot!

(By contrast, how does Gerald Green’s cupcake dunk not only fail to get all 10s from the judges, but actually receive an EIGHT from Darryl Dawkins? Darryl’s a hater! Darryl’s a hater!)

Also, TNT is owned by Time Warner. Superman is owned by DC Comics which is owned by Time Warner. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. At the very least it helps explain why the “dunk’s” shortcomings were ignored entirely by the TNT crew. I guarantee you that if he’d put a Spiderman costume on, the TNT crew would not be creaming themselves nearly as much over the “dunk”.

An experiment continued, clarified, and started

Because I know there are people who will attack me for it, I want to make clear that I am not seriously proposing what is proposed in this strip! That said, if anyone was to carry it out, I would not necessarily oppose it… although I would not be one of the hordes of men to fly into the store and take it off the rack. (Swear to god!)

By the same token, I’ve had 24 hours to reassess, and I also want to make clear that I do know GTA technically has some semblance of plot. That’s why I mentioned empty action movies in yesterday’s post – those things will tell you they have plots too, but no one cares about them, and they’re all the same anyway!

If you’re not hep on the Hot Coffee scandal or Mass Effect, you might find yourself a little confused at today’s strip…

The Violent Video Games Debate

As a stopgap measure until SiteMeter allows one account to hold multiple counters later this year, I have added a Bravenet counter to Sandsday (NOT the rest of the website yet), similar to Da Counter from January through August 2007, so I know just how many people are enjoying the strip each day without wondering just how reliable Freehostia’s stats are. I have 26 separate hits for the webcomic’s title image this month, and at most 13 of those are mine (15 last month but I don’t even know how many of those are mine), hence why the counter starts at 13. But the mere fact that I have to go by the title image is not a good sign. And because I’m not entirely certain how many people really read Sandsday before now, I’m hoping I can set SiteMeter to only display the number of people to visit in the last 24 hours.

This is the last strip in the ongoing debate on violent video games, and because it ends ambiguously, I want to cover some points not made in the strip. First, I want to make clear that “Break the law as much as you can” is not really a plot. If you think it is, you can have your empty action movies.

In itself, video game violence is not wrong. It’s a damn sight better than real violence, and real violence is enough of a fact of life that we should not be censoring video games if the violence is to be expected. But it depresses me to think violence is an actual selling point for games, and for games like GTA and its clones, the violence is basically the point. What I don’t like is the idea of the violence sandbox that’s basically “Kill as many people as you can. Why? You don’t need no steenkin’ why!”

Not that there’s a problem with pointless games. I don’t have a problem with mind-numbing time sinks, because you need one of those once in a while, and I don’t have a problem with violence in video games, but I do have a problem with casual violence as a time-killer. It doesn’t reflect well on the mindset of video gamers, it’s more subject to the desensitization effect than deeper games, and there’s nothing to distract from the fact that you’re basically ending the “life” of simulated people. And people don’t play video games to have moral dillemas, so the conflict gets swept under the rug – if there’s a conflict at all, which is even worse.

I hope I’ve made my position clear, but I fear I haven’t. In fact I may be back to clarify my point.