Friday, November 21, 2014

Nix Tempestas Erat Calidus!

So two weeks ago I went to Blizzcon 2014. I've been to a few comic conventions, both as a guest and as a visitor, and so while there are obvious differences between comic books and video games I thought I knew what to expect. I didn't.
First things first: Blizzcon 2014 was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed myself. I didn't play a single video game there, but it was still pretty cool. They announced a new video game at the show: Overwatch, Blizzard's first new IP (intellectual property) in 16 years.
They also had a pretty neat panel for the upcoming Warcraft movie, directed by Duncan Jones, announced the next expansion for Starcraft II (Legacy of the Void), talked what's to come for Diablo 3 and Hearthstone, gave us more info on Heroes of the Storm, and also had a ton of stuff featuring the new World of Warcraft expansion: Warlords of Draenor, which was released the following week.

That's all pretty fun stuff if you're a gamer or a Blizzard Entertainment fan, which I am. But even without all that, I and the guys I was with couldn't help comparing Blizzcon 2014 to other comic conventions we'd been to. Astonishingly enough, there are a number of things that I think comic conventions could learn from Blizzcon.

1. At Blizzcon everyone was so damn nice! 
OK, this isn't meaning to imply that there aren't nice people at comic conventions. Far from it. But think about this for a second: at Blizzcon the ratio of men to women was fairly balanced and ethnically-speaking very diverse. This makes a bit of sense, in 2009 a Nielson Report found that in America women 25 and older made up the largest block of "gamers". During that same time frame the ratio of American men to American women playing World of Warcraft was fairly balanced as well. And despite the whole Gamergate nonsense going on, I didn't see or hear about a single one of those idiots at the convention.
It hit us in that moment that the gamer community is a whole lot different than the comics community, even though so many of those people lie in both camps. One reason, I believe, is that while the video games are the main feature of Blizzcon, the gamers are the stars while at a comic convention the stars are the property creators. There are a ton of gamers who could regularly beat the creators of those games at their own creation, so when they go to a show they can feel like a badass. And then, at the show, they are celebrated for being a part of the community. I've seen too many tables at a comic convention where the creator looked like he was doing fans a favor by being there.
There should be a greater celebration of the fans that drive the market at comic conventions.

2. The Blizzcon Convention floor was well designed.
First off, at Blizzcon they had the A/C humming! With the hundreds of computers they had running, the temperature had to stay constant so they didn't overheat. A pleasant side-effect was that guests stayed fairly cool as well. Sometimes when I leave a comic convention I feel like a sweaty ball of Stank and can't do anything until I've showered off the ConCrud.
Second, the lighting and decor was top-notch. They wanted the games to be the focus, and so the walkway lighting...didn't exist. There were times that I was standing in the dark with a bunch of other people, waiting in line to buy a beer (Oh yeah. They sold beer on the convention floor. Awesome.) The darkness didn't cause as many problems as you might think. There was still the occasional moment when you'd bump into someone, but you just gave a polite "Excuse me" and moved on. No big deal.
Now, I recognize that it's a little different for comic conventions. For one thing, the artists in Artist Alley need to be able to see, and there's a lot more face to face interaction than at a gaming convention. But there's some value to be had in trying to figure out a way to control the lighting at a comic convention to be something other than those bright, harsh halogen gym lights.
When I walked into Blizzcon, it was a little like walking into another world. They had a stage set up for Hearthstone that looked like the tavern of an inn from World of Warcraft. They had huge, life-like statues of characters that had made them famous. They controlled what you were able to look at, and they controlled what you saw when you looked. There's some value in that mindset to be had when determining the layout and look of a comic convention floor, I think.

3. The Cosplay supported the product. 
I've definitely seen more cosplay at other conventions, but the quality of cosplay at Blizzcon was, in general, far superior to any other convention I'd been to. But one thing that Blizzard did, which I thought was genius, is hire cosplayers to dress up as Overwatch characters to support the announcement of the new game.
I've seen a lot of Comics vs Cosplay discussions when it comes to comic conventions. I don't see why they can't help each other. Cosplay, whether you like it or not, has become a profession for some people. They have booths at shows to sell prints, and they walk the floor to get pictures. What would be awesome to see is a professionally-hired Spiderman at the Marvel booth, or a professionally-hired Deadpool as the line organizer for the Rob Leifeld signing.
Even better, what I'd love to see is smaller creators working out deals with cosplayers who would be at the show to come up with cosplay for their books, and then they cross-promote the hell out of each other.
First, it would put an end to the various discussions about whether cosplay is killing comic conventions. Second, it would validate the fans who come to conventions dressed up as their favorite character. I've definitely seen and heard comments about fans who dress up but look vaguely like the amorphous-blob version of the character. God, can you imagine how much courage that takes!?
Rather than being made fun of, they should feel encouraged to show up dressed as their favorite character. I think that hiring cosplayers to help promote the product is a step in the right direction. It implies an acceptance of anyone wearing a costume.

Anyone else go to Blizzcon and noticed something the wished comic conventions would do (like serve beer on the convention floor)? Or did you wish Blizzcon did something more like comic conventions? Drop a line in the comments and share.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Cara Diarium

I've been doing a little fall cleaning on my computer, and found this little piece I wrote a little over twelve years ago. Thought I'd share.

Dear Diary,

I am drowning in a sea of happiness. Oh, I know what that usually means. Everything is perfect, life couldn’t be more wonderful, all that shit. But drowning in anything is hardly a pleasant situation, and the environment you are suffocating in is usually one you would rather remove yourself from.
I am drowning in a sea of happiness. Slightly more depressing this time, isn’t it?
I am drowning in a sea of smiling faces, each obscure and out of focus, like a cheap movie. I can’t tell one person from another, one face from someone else’s. Except his.
His face is crystal clear. I look up from this sea of happiness I am drowning in, and do not see a savior, reaching out a hand to help me breath. I see a man, leering, reaching out a hand to hold me under until I stop breathing.


Sorry, dear diary. I’m so sorry. I’m trying to tell you my secret of the day, and I am shaking so bad I can barely get it out. Am I angry? Yes. Furious. So enraged that I can barely see sometimes. But I’m mostly scared.
They say the worst part about drowning is that you die alone. I feel so alone.
I am drowning in a sea of happiness. A sea of smiling faces surround me, and I want so badly to breath them in. But I’m too scared to open my mouth. I’m so scared, and sometimes I feel like I’d rather drown then open my mouth and let them in.

I don’t know who I’m supposed to trust.

I feel so alone. I want to talk to someone, need to talk, but every time I’m greeted by a friend

Oh God.

Every time I’m greeted by a friend, I open my mouth, to cry, to cry for help, to ask forgiveness, to scream in rage, but my shame makes everything stick to the back of my throat. And everybody tells me they love what I did with my hair. It looks so good cut so short, and blond makes my eyes sparkle.

I want to scream at them that my eyes are sparkling because they are merely the lids to my tear ducts, and the reservoir is so full it’s been overflowing lately. I want to shout at the top of my lungs. I want to tell them that if I thought it would do any good I would have shaved my head completely. But that would only make me feel more naked. And more ashamed.

I lost count of how many showers I took. How many times I sank to the floor of the bathtub and let my tears mingle with water that was supposed to make me feel clean. But every time I got beneath the spray of water, it splashed hard against my body, like a fist it pummeled me. And no matter how long I stayed under those fists of liquid, I never felt cleaner. Purer. I felt dirtier. Soiled and used.
So I would turn the water back on again.
So many times I wanted to plug the drain and let the water fill the tub. Then I could sink beneath the water and be justified that what I was feeling and what was actually happening were one and the same.

I’m such a stubborn bitch. If I give up, he wins. If I stay silent, he wins. But if I bare my shame to the world, I lose. I lose my pride, my self-respect, my determination.

My desire to live now rests completely on the desire to never see this happen again.

So you watch out asshole. I may be alone, and scared, and merely a woman, that you took advantage of and tossed away like an empty liquor bottle. But you didn’t realize that the bottle wasn’t empty. I was a bottle full of possibilities. You should never throw away a full bottle. You should put in on a shelf and keep it. But you poured me out and threw me away, and I am nothing now but a puddle of fear and self loathing.
But I am also angry. And my wrath will be your scourge. And the scourge of your friends. And the scourge of my friends. I know who you are now. I may feel cheap, but this will pass, because I did not make myself feel this way. You will always be a bastard. Apologize a thousand times, because you were wrong. Apologize a thousand more, and maybe I will forgive you. But this is something we both will live with for the rest of our lives, and I will never let you forget it.
This misery I have should have belonged to you. This fear I have should have paralyzed you. You should have been the one to feel alone. Wipe that goddamn smirk off your face and stop telling everyone how much fun your party was. You may not feel these things now, and maybe you never will. But I swear no one else will either.

Oh dear diary, thank you. Thank you for listening, though you have no ears. Thank you for comforting me, though you cannot hug, though I cannot hide in your embrace. You are my life preserver in a sea of faces. Though no one knows what I know. I have at least found the strength to tell you. Maybe I will be able to tell someone else.

Someday. But not today. Today I shall stop crying tears of shame, and cry the cleansing tears of resolve. And you will cry them with me.

Tomorrow is for hope. Tomorrow is for fighting. Tomorrow is for never drinking again. Tomorrow is for foregiveness.

But it’s still today. And today, I still can’t trust anyone, yet.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Pignus Fidelitatis

I pledge allegiance to the brag of
the United States of America
and to the oligarchy for which it stands.
One nation, under fraud,
divisible by race, gender, religion, and sexual orientation
With liberty and justice for those who can afford it.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Quae Putidiusculum

Meanwhile, 5 months later...

A lot's been happening, and I haven't been able to adjust my habits to include blogging very much. Apologies.

But the good news is I've still been writing! "in Sanity, AZ" has been on shelves for a little over half a year and the response so far has been very positive. Thanks to everyone who's picked that up, I'm really proud of it. (And if you haven't picked up a copy yet, what are you waiting for?)

The guys I wrote "in Sanity, AZ" with and I started a new project, a prose book, and it's coming along very nicely. I promise to share more when I have more to share.

Finally, I'm working on a children's book with an old friend of mine Bryan McIntyre called "Rotten Little Things". It's a fun little tale about cute, cuddly, candy-crazed kids who turn into cute, cuddly, candy-starved zombies! One of my favorite things about this book is that all the art will be hand-made. Not hand-drawn, hand-made.

Check out the official press release below:

Local artist seeks to revive dying art form with innovative approach to storytelling   
PORTLAND – Local sculpture artist Bryan McIntyre is trying to revive a dying art form with his newest creation, Rotten Little Things. It’s a book with a story that focuses on a small town and what happens when a creepy old codger moves in and turns the town’s pint-sized citizens into adorable, candy-starved zombies – all told in narrative sonnet form, written by co-author of the diabolically delicious graphic novel "in Sanity, AZ', Michael Drace Fountain.

McIntyre’s original story will forgo any CGI or digital manipulation. He will be creating all of the art work with sculptures, miniature models, and sets; all created by hand.
“I think there’s more of a tangible connection with this type of art,” McIntyre said. “It’s not computer generated, it’s not two dimensional and drawn on a piece of paper. When our eyes see something real, our mind instinctively knows it.”

McIntyre is a former Laika employee. He left the company in 2013 after completing his work for their upcoming feature file, The Boxtrolls. While looking for work, he decided to re-examine a project he had put aside for a few years. When it came time to decide on his next career path, he jumped at the chance to focus on Rotten Little Things full time.

To generate funding, McIntyre is taking his old-school art form into the digital age: He’s going the crowd-funding route. His Kickstarter campaign went live on May 14, and generated 10 percent of his $65,000 goal in only four days.

“Once the campaign hit Facebook, it nearly went viral,” he said. “Good friends of mine in the band Rival Sons posted a link, and it hit nearly 90,000 people overnight.”

The funding McIntyre generates will go to supplies, his nearly 60-hour work week, and living expenses. He said he anticipates the project taking a year to complete, and that all reward levels will receive the book, as well as other perks based on the supporters’ chosen pledge level.

His Web page, is regularly updated with a blog on his progress on the project. To contact McIntyre, please email

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Mutare Tu Mente II: Units of Heat

Greetings! I hope everyone has been having a lovely start to the year.

In my previous blog, I talked a little bit about a little bit about those common New Year's resolutions to "lose weight" and "get in shape" - two rather vague terms that don't (in my mind) properly define the goals you may be trying to accomplish.
For instance, "losing" generally has a negative connotation. You lost the game. You lost your phone. Psychologically, people prefer the opposite of losing - either gaining or winning. But it seems like they try to create a psychologic disconnect with the term when they talk about how much they weigh. Maybe this is one of the reasons why "losing weight" can be so difficult. In most cases we associated losing with a failure of some kind, but in the case of our weight we want to succeed in losing.
So in my last blog I talked about the term "reconstitution". In a workout, generally you are doing a combination of burning fat and building muscle, and a proper combination of the two can result in positive changes on the scale and how you look.

Today I want to take a look at calories. Oh, the dreaded calorie! Calorie counting has become part of everyday life. Menus (at least in California) are required to list their calorie counts for every food item. People obsess over them.
The commonly held data is that one pound of fat holds about 3500 calories. OK, so you go to the gym and jump on the treadclimber and after a solid 30-minute workout the machine says you've burned around 600 calories. Cool, that means you only need to use the treadclimber for about 3 hours to burn one pound. Oh, but you also ate food that day (in order to survive) in excess of 1200 calories, so you better tack on another hour of stair-climbing to offset your meals.

Can you see how ridiculous (and dangerously unhealthy) this mindset is? Calories are just a basic unit of heat that comes from burning energy stores. You aren't burning calories, you are burning fats and sugars. If you think of it like a car, gasoline is the energy store and the exhaust coming out of your tailpipe are the calories (This is not scientifically accurate, I know. I'm speaking metaphorically here).
Knowing you are "burning" calories is useful only in that you know that you are also accessing the energy stored in your body's fats and sugars. It's data, and it's as useful  as the data you get when you step on a scale. It's a number you can use to track your progress.

But there is better data you can use.
The basal metabolic rate is the amount of energy your body uses when it is at rest. To pump the heart, inflate the lungs, operate the nervous system, and basically keep the body alive your body needs energy. Yep, you burn calories just by sleeping.
Without taking in more detailed data, like lean body mass and things like that, my BMR is around 2000 calories. What that means is that, without doing any activity at all, in order to keep my weight where it is right now, I would need to consume 2000 calories per day.

So without doing any activity at all, I could drop my weight by eating fewer than 2000 calories every day. At least until my BMR dropped to the caloric amount I was eating.

But let's be clear, when most people talk about dropping weight, they would like to be healthy once they reach their goal weight.
Let's go back to the treadclimber example. After a solid 30 minute workout, the machine says you burned around 600 calories. But your heart is also beating faster, your lungs are pumping more oxygen, your blood is moving quicker, and you are sweating, which is your body's way of trying to cool you down because you are running hotter than normal. A calorie is a unit of heat, right? Once you step of the treadclimber, you don't just go back to your regular everyday caloric burn, you're still giving off a lot more heat than normal. In a workout, it's not just about the calories you burn during the workout. What I think is more important are the calories you are burning when you are done.
You burned some calories in the workout, which is good. But you also put an energy spike into your BMR, which is way better. The body recognizes that you are in a heightened state of movement and starts burning energy stores to keep you going, but it doesn't stop burning energy stores just because you stopped working out. For a little while, it continues to burn energy in case you want to keep going.

There is a lot more scientific detail you can delve into if you want, and the main point I can't stress enough is to make healthy choices, but there are ways you can inject small energy spikes throughout your day to play tricks on your BMR.

Try this one every day for a week and see what happens:
Do everything exactly the same as you would normally. Eat the way you've been eating, work out the way you have (or haven't) been working out. But before eating lunch and/or dinner do twenty air squats and twenty wall presses. These are easy, low-impact moves designed to increase overall tone and balance. What's great is that by doing these, in less than five minutes you've tricked your body into thinking that you're going to need more energy than you actually do. You've placed an energy spike into your basic daily routine.
I promise that it will help.

For those that are interested in a quick BMR calculator, try this one.