Category Archives: Media and Entertainment

YouTube and the War on AMVs

As YouTube continues its march to legitimacy and perhaps profitability, it seems that my own little hobby of editing anime music videos (AMVs) is getting caught in the crossfire. Sadly Bandai has decided that it would rather attack the fans of its series rather than embrace them so one of my AMVs featuring clips from Gundam Seed was taken down. I argued that the video portion is clearly fair use, but to no avail. Someday, I’m going to put up a real fight, but now is not the time. Besides, all of my videos are still available at AnimeMusicVideos.org where I’ll continue to add new ones.

As a fan, my hope is that anime and manga will continue to exist and thrive, all of the banning and blocking of derivative, fan created, works smacks of desperation. It’s no secret that the Japanese anime model is a difficult one for content producers to profit in. The internet and advances in digital technology have only made it more difficult. I buy all of the DVDs I use for my videos from reputable sources, but I know that for most fans these discs are just too expensive. This is especially the case in Japan itself. Piracy is like a release valve on the market. If prices are too high, the valve is going to open up.

I think in the end, the market will sort itself out. A lot of companies are going to close, but will this mean the end of anime? Of course not! As long as someone wants to create it, someone will figure out a way to make a profit. A new model will rise from the ashes of the old and before you know it, we’ll have more magical girls than we know what to do with!

Jealous of My Boogie: Thanks!

On Monday, RuPaul’s Drag Race crowned its best “woman” for season 2, Tyra Sanchez. I didn’t like Tyra that much at first, but over the course of the show, she really changed and grew up. So I’m totally okay with her winning. Honestly, I thought Raven had the inside track because she consistently raised her game every step of the way. But in the end, Tyra’s performance in the final Lip-sync for Your Life was just amazing and pushed her over the top. So Raven didn’t lose the crown, Tyra really earned it.

One thing I’ve liked from the very beginning is having the shows and extras available on the web. In particular I’m really enjoying the final version of the music video they were shooting as part of the final episode. Now I can’t get Jealous of My Boogie out of my head! Thanks RuPaul and all of the queens for such a fun show! (^_^)

RuPaul’s Drag Race

The last few weeks, I’ve become a regular viewer of RuPaul’s Drag Race. I learned of the show from an ad on a CTA bus stop in Chicago’s Loop. So I decided to give it a look and got hooked on it, because all of the episodes are on the web after broadcast on Logo, catching up on the show was pretty easy.

In short, I love this show! I’m not a big fan of so called reality shows in general, they mostly leave me flat. But this one hooked me on a couple of fronts, one, the cosplay element, and two, the crossplay/crossdressing elements and all of the creativity that goes into them. The closest show I’ve seen to this previously was Project Runway. Once I saw that the Queens had to create their own stuff with limited time, this cosplayer was totally onboard. It’s a bit of Project Runway and America’s Next Top Model mixed together with some RuPaul secret sauce thrown in!

Up until last week, I don’t think I had a favorite. I knew I didn’t really like Tyra very much, because, well…she’s a bitch! Sorry, that slipped out. Seriously though, if you close your eyes and just listen, you can’t tell the difference between the Queens and real genetic women! Open your eyes and a lot of times, you still can’t tell! They’re that good, really. And as a crossplayer myself, they’re a bit of an inspiration. My cosplays don’t require much flashy make up, but the attitude of the Queens is something I’ve been missing. You’ve got to really own your characters and show that you’re having a great time to make the best pictures. This is something I hope to take with me to ACen in a few weeks.

After last week’s Rocker Chicks performances, I’ve found my favorite, Pandora Boxx! She’s been sort of flying under the radar, but over the last few weeks just gets better and better. Funny, smart, and wow I loved this outfit! The singing wasn’t the greatest, but her presentation and attitude more than made up for it. She looks great and I really think she has a shot at winning it all!

Oh Facebook! How Cheeky You Are!

A few days ago, I noticed in my emailed Facebook status update notifications, that I could now reply to them via email. That is, I could reply to a friend’s status update without having to go to and login to Facebook. I thought it was interesting, but could not see the immediate benefit to me. Nevertheless, I started using the new feature.

Later, after talking with someone about how Facebook has become a popular vector for PC viruses and how many companies are beginning to block Facebook access for workers, it struck me! Being able to reply to a status update or comment on one via email is a way to get around the block. Keeping people from sending email to certain addresses is a thornier issue than blocking access to a particular web site. And it is highly unlikely that mail from Facebook itself poses any kind of security threat. Still, people are supposed to be working, right? Facebook you are so cheeky!

End of Free TV? Yaaaaawn!

While I might complain about Yahoo!’s new home page, on the whole, they’re still a good portal. Just ran across an AP article there that speculates free over the air broadcasting could come to an end due to shrinking advertising revenue.

It’s no secret that the television viewing audience has a lot of choices now as to how, where, and when they get programs to watch. I haven’t paid much attention to over the air network shows for a long time now. Part of that is because the shows I like the most aren’t on the networks anyway. And even many of the cable shows I follow can be downloaded legally or otherwise at relatively low cost. If free TV disappears, I’ll hardly notice or care. And if some of the shows I do care about go away, well, that happens. I’ll watch something else or read some books. Or, hey, maybe I’ll make my own entertainment and share it on the web.

There’s no such thing as a free lunch. The entertainment industry seems to be undergoing a long overdue correction. For one thing, the television rating system has never been exact meaning that advertisers were probably overpaying in a lot of cases. Actual viewer counts can be much more precise for a web delivered show than anything broadcast. And the ads themselves can be much better targeted. So it’s no wonder the ad dollars are flowing in the web’s general direction now. In the end, the huge media conglomerates are either going to have to learn to live with smaller profits or bring something new to the table that their customers want.

Youmacon 2009 Aftermath

In short, I had a pretty good time at this year’s Youmacon. I didn’t have any new costumes to finish, so no morning of con rush to finish and get out the door this year! Instead I had a bunch of stuff at the office blow up on me. But I cleaned that up in time to go. Happy days!

After a lot of thought, I decided not to cosplay on Thursday night. I had been toying with doing the OL version of Mikuru, but decided against it in part because no one would likely recognize it as cosplay. So normal me just had to do, which is fine…usually.  The pre-reg pickup was reasonably quick once the line got moving. After that I had to great pleasure of chatting with a couple of friends who I had been looking forward to seeing at Youmacon. Later I went to the How to Con panel, which was hilarious, followed by the Sera Myu panel which was…interesting. Let’s just say I wasn’t expecting Sailor senshi dancing. The Sailor Mercury was quite cute though!

Friday was Mikuru cosplay day! I was happy the socks I had wanted came in time and I think it went over pretty well. Not too many pic requests though since the Haruhi craze is pretty much over. The highlights of the day for me were really the AMV contest, karaoke, and the AMV dance that night. I still don’t get people who go to dances and just watch other people dance. And I felt sorry for those guys wandering about looking for girls to dance with. Just dance! I still don’t know if my AMV entry won or not, but it was fun seeing it on the big screen.

Saturday is the biggest day of any con. For me it means getting out my newest costume. I’d tuned up my Princess Sakura and entered the Hall Cosplay competition. As always, I enjoyed telling the judges all about the costume and what went into making it. And I got some very positive feedback. And feeling more daring than usual, I followed there suggestion to get some professional pictures taken by the photographer they had for the event just down the hall. After that, I joined the CLAMP cosplay shoot in the very humid pool room. It was fun! I always worry that I’m messing up the shoot, but I tend to be a little over critical of my cosplays. Other people seem to think they are pretty good, so I should just chill a bit.

Last year, I missed a lot of the guest, so I wanted to make up for that this time around. I went to the Yugioh: The Abridged Series panel, and a little later, partially by accident, attended the Team 4 Star, of DBZ: Abridged,  panel as well. I ended up changing a lot of my plans in order to avoid ridiculously long waits in line. The 4 inch heeled boots I was in were not made for long periods of standing. And my outfit was definitely not made for sitting on the floor too long either.

As a result of this, like some divine retribution/irony, I ended up in standing room only at the Masquerade. Since standing just wasn’t going to work, I found myself sitting on the floor, unfortunately on top of my belted right leg. After half an hour in this position that leg went to sleep and I couldn’t feel it at all! So I stood up not knowing if I was going to topple over or not. Soon, the feeling came back and a short time later, at the end of the skits, some seats opened up and I was able to sit down. The Masquerade skits and costumes were quite good on the whole with a minimum of puerile yaoi skits, thank goodness!

I had planned to go to the Saturday night rave, but things were behind schedule and I had absolutely no desire to wait in any more lines. I’d already changed out of the boots and into flats, so walking and standing were no longer problems. I mainly wanted to make sure I didn’t miss my chance to sing. So I spent a big chunk of the night in the karaoke room enjoying the singing of an old con friend and some very very lively young women! I capped off the night with a few hilarious hours watching hentai in the VAT room.

Sunday is usually a sad con day for me because it marks the end of the fun. This Sunday was a little different though because I had a good time getting omiyage (souvenirs) for the family. And I met up with some more con friends that I had been wanting to see. I went to the Laura Bailey panel too. She is a super sweet heart! And at the panel, I met a young lady who I’d seen in Cosplay Shougi the day before, but didn’t have a chance to get a picture then. She sat down right next to me and agreed to pose for the picture below in which she is cosplaying Kuradoberi Jam from the Guilty Gear video game.

I had a great time at Youmacon! But it was time to go home, besides I had gifts for everyone deliver. Hopefully I can go again next year!

Kuradoberi Jam

The Tyranny of the Normal

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately, well really over the last few minutes most intently. And I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not too wild about Facebook any more. Facebook can be a wonderful tool for building an online social network, but I am increasingly feeling the same constraints that vex me in the real world coming into the online one as well.

Many of my hobbies and interests are anything but mainstream. Nevertheless, there are many forums on the internet where I’ve enjoyed interacting with other who share the same interests. Facebook has similar interests groups as well, but because my real name is associated with my Facebook activities, I do not feel as free to express my interests in those things. On Facebook, keeping walls between your different activity groups is not an easy task. Those who fail to do so run the risk of job loss, divorce, excommunication, and a variety of other sanctions as a result of “misbehaving”.

Ironically, using my real name on Facebook means that I can’t keep it real on Facebook. So I’m pulling back from there. I had fun experimenting with Facebook, but the chains are just too heavy. I still believe that there’s no such thing as anonymity on the internet, but I’ll take even this thin veneer over the nakedness of Facebook and the tyranny of the normal.

Second Skin is Out! Watch It!

I’ve been waiting to see Second Skin for over a year since I first heard about it at last year’s SXSW film festival. I just watched it online and it was well worth the wait! Second Skin is a documentary about people who play online games. Anyone who has ever played games online or knows someone who does should check this out!

Fanboyism aside, it is a well made film with cool music. And at the end, I really felt something for the people. Even though I’ve just watched it online, I’m definitely going to add the DVD to my collection because it’s that good and I want to support the film makers. In some ways, it’s like watching a real life version of The Guild. But you’re laughing with, and sometimes crying for, real people.

Man in the Mirror

It’s still hard to believe that Michael Jackson is gone. No one was expecting this to happen so soon and the obvious comparisons with Elvis are, well, obvious… All I’ll say here is that I believe he was  a true artistic genius and I enjoyed his art immensely. I can only hope and pray that he is finally at peace.

Gundam 00 and the Triumph of the Small Screen

After some initial reservations due to the awefulness of the English dub, I’m giving Gundam 00 another try from the beginning. I just watched Gundam 00 Episode 1 in Japanese on YouTube, legally!

With the explosion of anime and other programming moving to the web on sites like YouTube, Hulu, Joost, and CrunchyRoll, the triumph of the small screen over the big one in the living room seems well on its way. I still prefer to watch the living room TV, but I have more time away from that one, than with it. And if my household is typical, I have a lot more small screen around than big ones.

This freedom does come at a cost though, but not the obvious visual one. Instead, the cost is becoming your own programming director. On demand, ubiquitous entertainment means freedom from someone else’s scheduling decisions, but responsibility for doing it yourself. I think the current generation is up to the task, just we older ones have to catch on. I wonder if there is a market for tools to make this task easier?

The show, btw, was pretty good and sounds much better in the original Japanese. I like English dubs too, but what I saw for this particular show kinda put me off.  So hurray for subtitles! Just remember, on YouTube you have to click the caption icon to get the subtitles.

Hello Twitter

After twittering my thumbs, so to speak, I finally joined twitter. I thought the stream of updates on Facebook was bad enough, oh boy! In any case, my plan is to explore and learn. So far I like it for blogging little stuff that I don’t really want to write a full entry about anyway. Duh, I suppose that’s what it was made for in the first place.

Link: blueZhift on Twitter

The End of Magazine Subscriptions

Over the last year, two of my favorite magazines have ceased publication. Newtype USA went away and then morphed into PiQ which lasted two issues before dying. And Electronic Gaming Monthly, one of the best and oldest magazines of its genre, barely made it into 2009 before going away. In each of these cases, I was a long time subscriber and did not see one thin dime of a refund for issues that never came to my doorstep!

Like Samuel T. Cogsley, the lawyer who defended Captain Kirk in the Star Trek episode, Court Martial, I love print. I love the feel of a printed book or magazine in my hands. And I love to collect them with almost fetish-like devotion. Print turns me on. But wasting money does not! So I am swearing off of subscribing to any more printed magazines. I will by the occasional issue in the bookstore (as long as we still have bookstores), but they won’t be getting any more of money upfront in the form of a subscription.

As much as I like print, I really would like to see more media in the form of ebooks I can read with somethng like Amazon’s Kindle. If the cost of the reader can get under $200 USD and the magazines and manga I love are available, I’d be all over that. To be able to take your entire reading library wherever you go must be one of those great book lover dreams.

 

Samuel T. Cogsley Loves Books And So Do I
Samuel T. Cogsley Loves Books And So Do I

Fansubs and Global Society

Watching Star Trek growing up, I always looked forward to a global, unified humanity. That was part of the picture of hope for the future of humanity that Star Trek painted. In the Star Trek mythos, this global humanity emerged after first contact with Vulcan explorers. In the real world, it looks like a global humanity is emerging due to the internet, fansubbers, and bit torrent!

It is truly amazing to see how much people will go through in order to enjoy and share stories across cultures and languages. This is happening even in the face of prosecution and harassment from media content owners who don’t seem to realize that fansubbers are not criminals, just really avid fans. Before the internet made it possible to follow news and trends around the globe as easily as those in your own backyard, it wasn’t a big deal to get a foreign show or movie in your own language years after the original release. But clearly fans are not willing to wait that long. And while others would say, tough luck, I think it really says something about humanity that we want to share each other’s stories sooner rather than later. I mean, why should someone in one culture ever want to see a story set in a culture that may not share any of the values in yours?

Maybe the truth is that we all share enough values simply because of our shared humanity. Maybe we really are more alike than different afterall. It’s too bad that the media companies are only interested in control and profit. Wouldn’t it be cool if they gave their fans what they want, near simultaneous global releases, and we could someday look back on this sharing of culture as the unifying moment in the history of humanity?

Hulu vs Boxee Round 3

In what is shaping up as a defining battle of new business model versus old, Hulu has decided to block its RSS feed if the reader is Boxee. I say a defining battle because Hulu, acting as a proxy for some of the giants of the old, television centered, media business model, is trying to dictate the where, what, and how of how the customer consumes their product. But clearly, the customer wants to decide for him/herself the where, when, and how of media consumption.

I don’t really blame Hulu because they’re just trying to meet the demands of their content providers (and save cable subscriptions), even though those demands are ultimately at odds with what the customer wants. The recent popularity of Boxee seems to indicate that a lot of people want to be able to easily what internet video on their TVs as well as computers. Ultimately, that’s something that the market is going to have to get used to and learn to profit from. Will the profits be as big as in the past? Who knows? It’s too early to tell, but I think that fighting the change will only alienate viewers and push them to pirated media sources. The successful business knows that the customer is always right.