Web Series Vs Ad Blocker


As regular readers know, I am a fan of web series as a format. The medium presents a huge potential of creativity and it is changing how we interact with media.  One of the major factors fueling the web series’ advancement is its ability to monetize. This area is also where web series are feeling the most pain.  Being able to make a profit on the content is vital if it is to continue to grow.

Put bluntly, the most efficient method of monetizing any online media content is advertising. Now I know that there are going to be people that say that paid subscriptions or buying clips is more profitable. This may be true in some circumstances, but these options also limit a series to only the people who have the income to pay. On the other hand, advertising costs the consumer nothing but time.  But a lot of people out there find that even too high a price to pay.

Before we get into that, let’s go over some details. For a web series, advertising money usually comes in the form of a profit-sharing agreement with the video hosting site, although not every video host does this. For example, Youtube does have ad revenue sharing, but only with select partners; most people do not get this. On the other hand, Blip has ad revenue sharing with all their content creators. In an ad sharing deal, the norm is a 50/50 split of the profits, calculated on what is known as a CPM or Clicks per Mille formula, where mille equals 1000. A rate is set for every thousand views of an ad. If the CPM for an ad is $5.00, if you get 5,000 views, you make $25.00. Ad rates are not consistent, so profits can fluctuate even if views don’t. In this model, it is possible to be profitable and even make enough to make a living at it, but you need to have a high viewer rate. You also have to get your ads seen. The CPM is calculated on ad views, not video views. If the ad does not play, it is not added to the CPM calculation.

This is where programs like Ad Blocker enter the equation. There are a lot of reasons people will block ads. There could be an issue where certain types of ads cause the viewer’s system to crash. Some people claim they have gotten malware from ads. But most of the time, the reason people block ads is that they find them annoying.

Here is where we get into the thick of it. As the series producers only get paid for ads shown, when viewers use Ad Blocker, it cuts into the web series’ ability to produce a profit. This is a fact that has been debated back and forth, for as long as there have been web series and both sides have become pretty entrenched. Sites have tried to find ways to deal with this and recently, Blip launched a new salvo that has brought the issue forward again.  Blip recently made a change to their site so that when they detect an ad blocker is being used this image comes up.


As stated, it makes the viewer wait 90 seconds for the video to start playing. This is hardly a new nor is it the most extreme tactic; other sites blocks that completely bar access to anyone who is using ad blocking software. Of course this raises hackles – several people equate it to bullying – and that community is already working on workarounds.  But more importantly, this has brought to the fore the fact that Ad Blocker cuts into the producers profit. Many viewers in forums have stated that they were not aware of this fact.

Lewis Lovhaug (aka Linkara) produces the comic book review show Atop the Fourth Wall as part of the online review and comedy site That Guy with the Glasses. Linkara is one of the rare producers who is able to make a living by making a web series due to his large viewer base.  He recently added to the advertising debate with a video wherein he explains how ad profits work and why Ad Blocker is a problem for producers like himself.  He states that he does understand if people need to use Ad Blocker for legitimate technical reasons, but otherwise, if they don’t, to consider not using the software for his show, as it is how he makes his living.

This video set off a debate on the TGWTG forums. Several viewers were unaware of the impact Ad Blocker has on the producers and have set their Ad Blockers to allow advertising from Blip (a process called whitelisting.) Others took offense at the video, saying that they don’t owe Linkara anything, that it’s their right to use Ad Blocker and that it’s his tough luck.

So where does that leave us?

For me, it is a question of what we want to see happen. Web series have an amazing potential, especially as film-making and distributing technology improve and become more available to consumers. This could have a huge impact as people can make creative programing that no one in Hollywood would ever green-light. However, in order for that to happen, it has to be profitable. Otherwise, no one is going to be able to make it in any sustainable fashion, much less grow the medium.

I have read a lot of people saying that the current ad structure is not sustainable. I’m not sure I agree with that. I think that as long as there are ways around ads, big advertisers are going to be nervous about taking the plunge.

I have also read people telling Linkara and other producers to go and find sponsors to put in their videos directly. That idea looks good on paper but has several flaws. It would take time away from video production to find and negotiate with a sponsor. Furthermore, most deals stipulate the producer would only get paid during the life of a campaign.  This means that if someone went into the series’ archive and watched an old video after the campaign ended, the sponsor of that episode would not be obligated to pay him again. With the current CPM ad structure, both new and old episodes have ads generating profit.

In the end, the question is: Do you want to see web series as a medium thrive or not? If the answer is yes, then I believe ads are the price we are going to have to pay. For myself, I find ads are a small price to pay for entertainment from a web series. If an ad comes on I don’t like, I just mute the computer. That way, I don’t have to hear it and the producer still makes money, allowing them to keep making more of what I like.

If another model does come about that works better I’m sure it will be adopted.  Until then, we all have a choice to make.

The Joker Blogs Review


Scott McClure as the Joker

The Joker Blogs is an interesting web series on many levels. At it’s heart it is a fan film, being a direct continuation of Christopher Nolaen’s The Dark Knight. But it has grown into something more than the sum of its parts.

Fan films are nothing new, but they are always tricky to deal with. First off, due to copyright law, you can’t make a profit on them unless you have worked to secure rights, which honestly these kinds of productions can’t afford. So making one is always a labor of love, even if it is also an attempt to show off your film making skills, like the movie Batman: Dead End.

But The Joker Blogs is something more, as it is not just a film, it is a series.

The premise is simple. The series takes place directly after the events of The Dark Knight. The Joker is being held at Arkham Asylum, undergoing evaluation to determine if he is sane enough to stand trial. The first part of the series is presented as tapes from the Joker’s therapy sessions with Dr. Harleen (Harley)Qunizel, which the Joker says are going to be uploaded to YouTube by a friend of his. These episodes play out as a mental cat and mouse game between Harley and the Joker. The second half of the series takes place after the Joker escapes Arkham on Harley’s wedding day.  The Joker takes Dr. Jeremiah Arkham hostage and films his antics.

The entire series is done in a ”found footage” style. In total there were 19 episodes of the original series, plus several side videos.  Since then there have been six videos released called Further Evidence that have acted as filler and set up as the crew prepares for a second series which is planned to start in April.

The genesis of the series is from the premiere of The Dark Knight in 2008, when Scott McClure attended dressed as the Joker. Several people complimented him on his spot-on impression of the character as played by the late Heath Ledger. Being a film-maker McClure decided to make a video of himself as the character and put it on YouTube. The response to the video was overwhelmingly positive so McClure and his partner Andrew DeVary decided to use it as a pilot for an entire series.

So what makes this series stand out from all the other various fan films that get put online?

The one thing that can make or break a web series like this is the writing. McClure and DeVary have a clear understanding that at his heart, the Joker is a horror movie character. Even in the light hearted early installments, there is a feeling of tension brought on by the character that increases as the series progresses. By the time the Joker escapes, the series has become a horror story with some comedic elements.

The writing would not be enough without the directing and McClure’s direction is superb. In straddling the line between horror and comedy pacing is key. McClure knows that in a show with a low budget, less is more and what you don’t see can be more terrifying than what you do. Add to that the fact that most of the cast are not experienced actors, but still pull off good performances, which I would credit to the direction they received.

As the series presented itself as basically real-time found footage, the show used that to include an interactive element. The Joker would give viewers tasks to do, usually to act as an advertisement for the show. One example was instructing viewers to send Warner Bros. valentines that included the shows web address. Reports are that a few thousand were sent.

Then we have to take a look at the cast.

As the Joker, the whole series is built around McClure’s performance. While it is directly based on Heath Ledger’s performance in The Dark Knight, McClure adds his own touches, and creates the perfect balance between the humor and menace of the character. Since His face is the only one seen in the first 9 episodes (with the exception of a quick cameo by the Scarecrow in episode 6) the series lives or dies by him. Fortunately, McClure is more than up to the task. McClure also plays the character of Dr. Thomas Elliot. It is a credit to his ability as an actor that a lot of fans did not catch that he was the same actor playing the Joker.

Kira Westberg as Harleen Quinzel is the other lead in the series. At first she sounds wooden, but as the series goes on it appears that this was just part of trying to keep professional composure with the Joker. By the end, when she is an onscreen presence, she carries her scenes well, and shows hints of evolving into Harley Quinn.

Steven Molony rounds out the main cast as Jermiah Arkham, Director of Arkham Asylum. Starting out as a bit player in early episodes, once the series leaves the Asylum, Dr. Arkham becomes a major character. Molony conveys the horror of what is going on, showing Dr. Arkham slowly losing his own grip on sanity. Molony also plays Batman in the few bits where he appears.

Once the series was done fans made sure it was known they wanted more. McClure and DeVary set up a successful crowd sourcing campaign to fund it. The series of shorts Further Evidence, focused on different characters, and shows how they deal with the aftermath of series one.

As I said earlier, the next series is scheduled to debut in in April. Further Evidence appears to have set up part of the plot, and the trailer has hints that it will touch on events for The Dark Knight Rises.

Overall The Joker Blogs is an impressive web series and should be checked out if you are a fan of The Dark Knight Trilogy, or if you are interested in the potential of web based series making.

Overall I give it a grade of A-.


The Horror Host

As we continue on through the Halloween season I thought that now would be the perfect time to cover the grand tradition that is the Horror Host. To bring any newcomers to the concept up to speed, Horror Host is the general term used for a character that would host late night horror movies often called creature features.

The genesis of both the Horror Host and creature feature is interesting. Back in the 50’s local station were always looking for cost effective programing to air, as well as trying to bring in viewers.

In 1953 actress Maila Nurmi attended a Los Angeles masquerade dressed as Morticia Addams. A local TV producer saw her there and had the inspiration to have her host horror movies on his station. Making alterations to the look and manner of the costume to avoid copyright issues Nurmi created the character of Vampira, and is credited as being the first Horror Host. The original show only lasted a year, but Nurmi made sure she owned Vampira and was able to bring the character back on a different station a year later. The ghoulish manner and macabre puns she used became the blueprint for all the Horror Hosts to follow.

Nurmi may have set Horror Host template, but it was production company Screen Gems that assured that they would be an American institution. In 1957 Screen Gems was the television subsidiary of Columbia Pictures, and had syndication rights to over 50 Universal Horror films. These films were marketed as a cost effective syndication package called Shock to local stations. As part of the package the stations were encouraged to have a host following the style that Vampira had set. Many markets called their show Shock Theatre after the name of the package. There would be a later package in the 60s called Creature Feature, and due to its rhyming nature it became the generic term for the show type.

John Zacherle was hired as the Horror Host for a station in Philadelphia. He created the character of Roland, a cross between an undertaker and a mad scientist. Later incarnations of this character were called Zacherley. Zacherle would take the macabre humor and ramp it up, including having Roland break in during the middle of a sequence of the film doing something odd or ghoulish and then go right back to the film. Zacherle would also go on to do things like record a novelty song called Dinner with Drac. Dick Clark gave him the nickname the cool ghoul. If Vampira set the stage for Horror Hosts then Zacherle codified how to do it.

Most stations had purchased the Shock package, and later Creature Feature as a means of low cost programing. Since they were interested in keeping costs down the Horror Host was often an employee of the station who did an off-screen job such as an announcer or program director. Sometimes it would be an on-air talent such as a weather man.

A great example of this type of Horror Host is Count Gore De Vol. Dick Syszel who played the count was an announcer at a Washington DC station. The character of Gore De Vol debuted in 1973. Syszel took the standard Horror Host routine and upped the ante. As he was in the nation’s capital he would often include political humor. De Vol was also one of the earliest, if not first, Horror Hosts to regularly include sexual innuendo as part of the act.

One other early Horror Host that deserves mention is Sinister Seymore. Seymore was played by actor Larry Vincent and hosted a show called Fright Night for a Los Angeles station. Seymore would use the Zacherle model of interacting with the movie, but instead of a cutting to him he would either appear in a pop up screen in the corner of the film to make a remark or blue-screening himself directly into the movie. He was also clearly an inspiration for the character of Peter Vincent in the movie Fright Night. Vincent played Seymore until his death in 1974.

Six years after Vincent passed the station decided to revive the show, and looked for a new Horror Host. The person they found became the Horror Host that is almost universally known, Cassandra Peterson better known as Elvira, Mistress of the Dark.

Elvira combined aspects of many of the Horror Hosts that came before. Her look harkened back to Vampira, she did break ins like Roland, she had innuendo like De Vol, and she added a sharp wit. Peterson would go on to do several acting gigs as Elvira including headlining two movies as the character.

A lot of the Creature Feature shows in the early to mid-eighties saw their viewer base erode since they were on Saturday late night and the audience was being drawn away by Saturday Night Live.  On top of this it became harder for stations to afford to pay broadcast rights for the old horror movies as they became more expensive with the rise of cable stations. However there were some notable exceptions

One was Commander USA’s Groovy Movies on the USA Network. Unlike the traditional Horror Host Commander USA, played by actor Jim Hendricks was a blue collar superhero, and would play the character more in the style of an old Kids show host. Another difference is that the show would run on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. The show ran from 1985 to 1989 and produced 200 episodes.

Around the same time as Commander USA, TBS had Al Lewis host an afternoon creature feature show as Grandpa Munster. Due to copyright issues, even though he wore the same basic costume that he did on the Munsters, Lewis’ character was only called Grandpa.

One other show that I would be remiss if I did not mention was of course Mystery Science Theater 3000. Originally a creature feature show for a station in Minnesota, the shows premise of riffing throughout the program, rather than the break-ins practiced by Roland and Seymore, brought it to the attention of the newly started Comedy channel, which later became comedy central.

When MST3K went off the air in 1999 it seemed that the era of the Horror Host was over. Most local stations found the broadcast price for the movies too expensive and the cable networks had moved on to other programing. While it appears that there was never a time without a Horror Host, the tradition appeared to be fading.

But it is hard to keep a good ghoul down, and the Horror Host as American icon was too strong to stay down long. By the mid-2000s you saw new Horror Hosts spring up, either on local station or on Internet broadcast. These shows dealt with the broadcast rights issue by showing public domain films.  One show, Cinema Insomnia hosted by Mr. Lobo, managed to get a syndication deal. Elivra has also returned using a similar format

The Horror Host image is one that has become such a part of our culture that it shows up in many interesting places, especially around Halloween.  Back in my Halloween Horror Nights article I talked about their use of characters they call the Horror Icons. Most of those characters have the qualities of a Horror Host. Last year they had a house called H.R. Bloodengutz where a Horror Host goes mad and starts terrorizing the station.

With such a history it should not be surprising that web series have also used the Horror Host. Internet Reviewer Jack Shen reviews horror movies as Count Jackula, who refers to himself as a Horror Host.

Just this month popular reviewer Lewis Lovehaug, who hosts comic book review show Atop the Fourth Wall, has started a new daily review show for the month of October called Longbox of the Damned. In it Loevhaug does a five minute overview of horror comics as Horror Host Moarte. Moarte embraces all the tropes of a Horror Host and would not be out of place on late night TV.

Clearly I have only scratched the surface of Horror Hosts here. And I found that people will feel a real connection to the host they grew up with. For me it was a character on the local Seattle station called simply the Count. He was a very generic Dracula rip-off, played by Joe Towey who directed the stations kids show, but I still have strong memories of the show as a child, and I did grow up loving the old horror films. Other friends of mine who grew up elsewhere were enthusiastic about their horror hosts including Gore De Vol, Sir Graves Ghastly, Ghoulardi, Joe Bob Briggs, Bone Jangler, and Penny Dreadful.

If you are interested in learning more, many hosts have a Facebook presence and have become a well networked community. I also came across a great blog called the Non-productive Network. The do a great series covering individual Horror Hosts.

So it looks like the Horror Host is here to stay. Who knows maybe one day I can finally produce Dr. Caliban’s Nightmare Theater.


The Booth at the End

I recently discovered the Booth at the End during a very boring Saturday. With nothing better do due I decided to check this show out after seeing it advertised several times on Hulu. This became one of those odd moments where I (A) wanted to kick myself for not finding it sooner and (B) was glad that I was able to watch the first two seasons all in one go.

The Booth at the End is a web series originally produced by the FX network website. Despite a bit of research I could not figure out if they are still involved or not. Either way it is currently showing exclusively on Hulu. It is what I have termed a type one web series, which is a series that is produced by a professional studio and using professional actors for distribution on the web.

The premise is that there is a man who sits in a booth in a diner. People will come to him with something they want. He will make a deal with them, where he gives them a task to do and when they complete the task they will get what they want. Part of the deal is that the people have to check in with the man and give him an update on how their task is progressing. The things the people want can range from money, to curing a child of cancer to bringing the dead back to life.

The tasks will often not appear to have anything to do with the goal, but are always something the person asking would not do of their own will. The man who wants his son cured of cancer must find and kill a 5 year old girl. The girl who wants money to save her father’s restaurant must find a shut in and make them leave their home. The young man who wants to be immortal must “mark three people” with no explanation of what that means. Another twist is that the man does not directly give the reward. Instead completing the task causes the reward to manifest on its own. In many cases the stories intertwine. One man is given the task of protecting the girl that the other man is tasked with killing.

Some people complete their tasks and they always get what they asked for. Others try and fail and still get what they want. Some are stopped by others and get nothing. And some realize that what they wanted isn’t what they really wanted after all and abandon the task.

The entire series takes place in the diner so the story is told by the people coming in to update the man. This is obviously dictated by the show’s limited budget, but rather than a weakness the show makes this aspect one of its strengths.  Normally you want to follow the “show, not tell” paradigm, but here the reverse is true. What you have is a collection of private conversations and the emotion displayed is often that of someone dealing with the aftermath of their actions.

As is often the case, when you are dealing with a low budget show you need to step up in writing and acting to make up for it. I honestly believe that several actors on this series are using scenes from it on their demo reels. The scripts are strong and clever. It is amazing the amount of information they convey not only in what they say, but what they leave unsaid.

The actors on the show are a collection of actors that you see in supporting roles or guest star roles on other shows. The lead is played by Xander Berkeley who is familiar face from shows like 24 and Nikita. His unnamed character, called only the Man in the credits is a calm collected person who seems a bit detached. The man seems to have no vested interest in the people he deals with completing their tasks or not. Berkeley underplays the man but still conveys that a lot is going on under the surface.

The other stand out character is Doris played by Jenni Blong who True Blood fans will recognize as Sookie’s mother. Doris is the waitress at the diner in the first season. She does not ask the man for anything, seeming only interested in getting to know him, something he is not comfortable with. In the second season when the man moves to another diner she shows up again and reveals that there may be more going on with her.

Two other stand-out performances are Jennifer Del Rosario, who plays Melody, the only other character to appear in both seasons, and Noel Fisher who plays Dillon, a man who wants immortality whose story crosses over with Melody. Both provide very emotionally performances with Fisher providing one of the most heartbreaking performances of the whole series in his last appearance. If there is any justice he will find more work based on just that.

The nature of the show naturally provokes a lot of online speculation from its fans. Most center on the nature of the man, but I think there is a lot more interesting details in the other characters. The man is not the protagonist of the series; at least not in season one. He is a well written plot device, he servers to motivate the people who deal with him, but they are the ones that grow and change. Second season gives the man more to work with himself, giving him some growth as well, but even then it is the people who come to him that are interesting.

Put yourself in their shoes. You learn there is a man who can give you anything you want as long as you fulfill a deal with him. The deal will be difficult, maybe even unthinkable, but you will get what you want. How far are you willing to go for what you want? That’s the hook of the series.

As for the nature of the man, a lot of fans want to put him in Judo-Christian terms. They speculate that he is either the Devil or an angel. I personally think that is too simple for this show. If we look at him in context of archetype he is a trickster. He provides a deal that allows people to face a truth about who they really are while they work to complete their tasks.

I would give The Booth at the End a solid grade of A as a web series. I encourage everyone to check it out.

An overview of Web Series

Are web series the way of the future? For most of you I’m sure your answer is, “what the hell are you talking about”?

Since about 2006 I have been fascinated by the how media and the way we consume it is evolving. That was the year I really got into podcasts. One of the early ones I found was Adam Curry’s Daily Source Code. During those early days one of Adam’s assertions was that in five years 50% of the media we consume would be produced by what were previously consumers.

It’s six years later and while we are not at the 50% mark we are further along than we were. And I think there are three factors at play here.

The first is how we want to consume media. I for one do not watch anything on TV during the time it is actually broadcast.  Between my work schedule and other activities I just don’t have the time. If I am interested in something I either watch it on demand, or online. When I reviewed American Horror Story, I did not watch a single episode during broadcast; I went out to FX’s website and watched. If I am not watching a show through On-demand, I am either watching it on Hulu, Netflix, or in rare cases Itunes.

And this is a growing trend. We have the technology to watch what we want, when we want, and where we want. The big media companies are catching on slowly. I am convinced that there will come a day when watching on demand is the norm and that shows will not be scheduled around a timeslot at all.

And this brings us to the other factor at play, the technology. Back in the eighties I was part of an amateur film making group. We made Star Trek, Doctor Who, and Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan films. Back then our distribution network was basically word of mouth at conventions and tape distribution. Also we had to rent time with editing equipment. Now you can get editing software for reasonable rates and when you are done you upload the video on-line.

So the barrier of getting your material out is gone. Instead the effort is to get people’s attention with so much competition.

So back to my original statement, why are web series the way of the future.

First I want to point out that there are basically three different types of web series.

The first is the professional series, produced by a big studio or network. These are either online side series to bigger shows, or original products that are not big enough to put on a network. Examples would be online extensions to the shows Heroes and Battlestar Galactica, or original content like the Booth at the End and The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers (LXD). The extension series can add detail to the main show, but they are general made so that they are not required viewing. A show like Booth at the End is a smaller budget scenario but can give actors who rarely get a chance at starring roles the opportunity to show their chops. LXD, which I previously reviewed, is an example of a show that would just not fly on regular TV, but given a chance online, is able to find an audience. The non-extension examples can often blurs the line with the next type

The second type of web series is the independently professional produced series. Shows like Doctor Horrible’s Sing-along Blog, The Guild, or Leap Year, which again have recognizable actors and even creators, but are made outside of the normal studio system. These can be passion projects for a creator that they cannot get backed, or an attempt for an up and comer to show they have the skills to work in the industry.

The previous two types of web series are ones that while smaller than normal TV shows can still get enough press to be successful. The third type is also the one that most fits Adam Curry’s prediction. These are independently produced shows that feature an amateur cast. The budgets are often small, so for a show to succeed there are to be something going for it like good writing and solid concepts.  A great example is a show I previously reviewed called Ninja: The Mission Force. The production company, Dark Maze Studios, specializes in what it calls micro budget productions. Other great examples are Standard Action, Transylvania Television, lonelygirl15 and JourneyQuest.

A subset of type three is the internet reviewer. I’ve mentioned some of these before. The best examples can be found at That Guy with the Glasses. Some of the reviewers are also film makers so it all comes down to people looking for a way to be creative.

Of course some people do it because they want to be famous, but honestly that’s not the worst motivation. But unless they have talent to go along with ego they aren’t going to do so well.

It’s the independent amateurs that I feel personally drawn to. These are the people that in the pre-internet days no one would have ever heard of. Now they have a means to get their work to an audience and make a name for themselves.

And actually make money at it.

That is the third factor at play. People have finally figured out how to monetize web series. It can take a few forms.

The most common is ad revenue, just like regular TV. In the case of online video it is usually by going through a service, like Blip TV, that hosts the video and stiches ads in them. The service will then split the ad revenue 50/50 with the video producer. The revenue is based directly on how many views a video gets so the more popular producers can make a full time job of it.

For the professionally produced web series they will either be on a studio site, or on a site like Hulu.

A variation of the above is when a site picks up a video producer, like IGN or the Escapist. They take care of the ads and pay the producer.

Another way is crowd sourcing, where the producer gets donations from fans to produce the show. This is how the first season of the Guild was paid for. The advent of Kickstarter has been a great boon to the web series, as it has for many artistic endeavors.

Since there is money to be made people will go out and make web series. This is what will make sure that there will be more and more content. So I say give it another five years and Curry’s prediction will come true.

I could go on about individual shows, and I certainly will in future articles. In fact in a couple of weeks I will be reviewing Booth at the End.

Who knows, if the stars are right maybe one day I might finally get around to creating a web series of my own. It could happen.

When online following goes too far.

Wow, sometime real life writes these blogs. Often I will start an article, and then let it sit for a day or two as I sort out what I want to say. In the case of this article while I was writing it events happened that directly relate to the subject.

So let’s start where I was going to start in the first place.

Recently I had what I realized was a very odd conversation with my wife. On the surface it was a normal conversation. I was telling her about the plight of a couple who were in the process of moving in together and the struggles that entailed. In particular the complaint they were sharing that their whole life had become boxes, nothing but boxes. What made it weird I pointed out was that while we were aware of this couple they have no idea who we are.

In fact they are two online reviewers from That Guy with the Glasses, Nash and Jesuotaku, who I follow on twitter.  As I mentioned in passing in a previous post, Nash also has a decade old online video streaming show called Radio Dead Air that we watch every Monday (well I watch, my wife listens to from the other room). So between all the online interactions I know a lot about their lives. However it struck me as odd that I was catching my wife up on the lives of two people that we never met.

There is something about putting yourself out on the internet that can create a false sense of connection. Let’s be clear, I am not talking about your online interactions with friends and family, this is about people you have never met that you are following through social media. Will Wheaton, George Takei, Penn & Teller, or web celebrities like The TGWTG crowd or the Nerdist.

I’m sure that part of it is helped along if the person you follow post often, and if they put up videos more so. And if they are like Nash and have a weekly live stream, well you might start thinking of them as friends.

Not to mention that there is the ability to comment and maybe, just maybe, get a response.

But the truth is that these are not your friends. They are people you like to watch and follow on social media, but they do not know you. So when you start acting like you would with someone you are actually close to it gets really awkward, especially when you start giving unsolicited advice on their lives. I’m not saying you can’t comment if there is an appropriate place for that, and feedback on their work is usually fair game. However when you cross the line into commenting on who they are in relationships with, or other unsolicited advice and comments on their lives a line has been crossed. I know there is an argument to be made that if you have put yourself out there on social media you are asking for this kind of interaction. I disagree with this whole heartedly. That would be like me saying that a random person on the street has opened themselves up to my meddling in their lives just because they decided to leave their house that day.

In other words just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should do it.

And we have reached the point I had written to when events unfolded that I don’t feel I can really ignore given the subject and the people I chose as examples.

In a nutshell another contributor to TGWTG known as Spoony had a massive flame out on twitter, apparently fueled by not very well managed depression that led to him being first suspended from the site, and then parting company with it all together. Unfortunately for Jesuotaku she was drawn into it as Spoony had made a tasteless joke about her involving rape and many people assumed that was what had led to the issues. Nash of course was involved as he was standing up for his girlfriend. Overall Jesuotaku and Nash behaved as adults and remained as much above the fray as humanly possible.

But there is a factor here that goes back to my original point. Many of Spoony’s followers started giving him unsolicited advice on how to deal with his depression and the issues it was causing. Far from solving the issue it fueled it further and may well have been the actual cause of the full-fledged flame out.  These are not people who knew him, or any of the participants in real life, but felt the need to interject themselves in the issue. And we are back to just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should do it.

I’m also not saying that you should never respond. When Nash’s dad had to go to the hospital a while back, I sent a message saying that both of them were in my thoughts and prayers. I did not give him advice on how to deal with it however.

In the end it is a question of thinking before hitting send. Asking some simple question:

“Is this something I would say to a stranger face to face?”

“Could this come off as creepy?”

“Am I helping, or do I just want to get their attention?”

Example, when this is posted their could be a temptation to send a link to Nash since I am writing about him. I won’t be doing this as in the end, I am just using him as an example to illustrate my point, and frankly with everything going on I think sending it to him would be a bit creepy.

So I’ll just make my post and hope I made some good points on dealing with people online.

And hope no one flames me.


Review: Ninja the Mission Force

Let me introduce you to Ed Glaser. He is the owner and executive producer of Dark Maze Studios, an independent producer of films and web series which prides itself on the micro budgets of its production.

The latest offering from Dark Maze Studios is the 10 part web series Ninja the Mission Force. To explain this series I first have to provide some background.

In the 1980s there was a film maker named Godfrey Ho. Ho would obtain the rights to distribute various unreleased Asian action movies. To improve the U.S. appeal for these films he would shoot footage of caucasian actors dressed as ninjas and edited them into the films and then overdub everything to attempt to make them mesh as one story. What resulted was series of movies with a high WTF factor.
Glaser took this concept and ran with it.
The main plot of NTMF is a battle between Gordon (a ninja working for Interpol) and Bruce (leader of the Evil Ninja Empire) to gain control of the seven avian ninja warrior statues (seven rubber ducks in ninja costumes) that will grant the possessor of all seven ultimate ninja power.  
Gordon (played by Glaser) is also dealing with the mysterious disappearance of his wife (played by Sarah Lewis) years ago. This is mitigated somewhat by a virtual avatar of her he interacts with through her self-videotaping project she completed before she vanished.
Bruce (Played by Brad Jones, better known as internet reviewer The Cinema Snob) has anger management issues. Every time one of his minions disappoints him (fails to defeat Gordon, loses the formula to create a zombie horde, gets his lunch order wrong, etc.) he feeds them to his just off screen tiger.
Both have agents that are out in the world searching for the avian ninja warrior statues. These agents are represented through scenes form public domain movies that are edited into each episode. Taking it a step further than Ho, the movies used are often as far from a ninja movie as you can get, including Orson Wells’ The Stranger, John Travolta’s Boy in the Plastic Bubble, and the original Night of the Living Dead. The new dubbed dialog takes these in new directions. The scenes from Boy in the Plastic Bubble are the set up for the Zombie horde and Night of the Living Dead features dogs whose brains have been put into human bodies and set after Gordon’s agents. In keeping with the spirit of the Ho movies, every episode has the word “ninja” in the title.
The overall tone of the show is absurd camp. The ninja fights are staged to highlight the fact that none of the actors have any martial arts training, and yet are presented as master fighters. The first episode features Gordon fighting a cheese ninja and overcoming him using his knowledge of bacon fu.
Each episode is 10 to 15 minutes long. This allows them to move the story along, tell their jokes, and not wear out their welcome.
The biggest strength of the show is also its greatest weakness. The over the top campiness will endear it to some and turn off others.
Overall I find Ninja the Mission force to be an excellent example of a web series. It combines it low budget and campy nature, with some cleaver writing and total commitment by the cast to create a unique program.
Final grade for Ninja the mission for is B+
You can find Ninja the Mission Force online at http://darkmaze.com/ninjathemissionforce/


Emerald City Comicon Day One

Quick overview of Day one of Emerald City Comicon.
First up, the panels.
I attended the Women of Webseries panel. It was definitely what the title suggested, local women working on producing, writing, directing, and staring in webseries. I got some good ideas for the projects I want to work on and a lot of inspiration.
DC All Access panel was next. You would think that a panel at a comic convention that is the news panel for one of the big two it would be kick ass. No such luck. The pros on the panel did some quick shilling of their upcoming projects. When it got to question and answer time that was a lot of deflection. One question asked about the status of Wally West and Donna Troy in the new 52 DCU, the answer was to make a joke and then ask the audience if they would like to win a prize for answering a trivia question.
The next panel was about the history of Wonder Woman for an academic and psychological perspective. The speaker was a tenured professor at Oregon State University for teaches minors program on comic book studies. He was awesome. And as much as I have researched at lot of the same history he covered I still learned some new stuff.
I wanted to get into a panel featuring noted voice actors but it was too full a room.
Next is the dealer floor.
This year has a good mix of comic shops, convention dealers, comic companies, artists and everything else you would expect. Due to the show still growing, this year the gaming based dealers were moved to a new area. It’s a bit of a walk to get there, but it is nice to see the growth.
My wife is a vendor this year and that fact lead to my most awesome moment of the day. She makes gaming dice shaped soap. I took a set to Randy Milholland, the creator of Something Positive. When I gave them to him his face lit up, and he had to show his booth mate Danielle Corsetto, creator of Girls with Slingshots. Mission accomplished and he gave me a sketch and print in return.
So I have decided to keep score of the characters people cosplay as this year. Basically if I see at least two people as a character I start keeping track. I will declare a daily winner and an overall convention winner. Here are today’s scores.
·         Doctor Who: 8 Today’s winner
·         Captain America: 6
·         Harley Quinn: 5
·         Batman: 4
·         Poison Ivy: 4
·         The TARDIS: 4
·         Robin: 3
·         Black Canary: 3
·         Superman: 3
·         Batgirl: 3
·         Green Lantern: 2
·         Catwoman: 2
·         Supergirl: 2
·         Spider Man:2
·         Doctor Horrible:2
·         Captain Hammer: 2
·         Death from Sandman: 2
·         Dalek: 2
·         Red Power Ranger: 2
·         Riddler: 2
·         Green Hornet: 2
See you tomorrow for the next update.


As I stated in my introductory post for this blog, I am fascinated by new media. Traditional media such as TV, movies, and radio is great and I am clearly a big fan. But with the advent in technology there are new ways of doing things that can open up doors to new experiences.
One example is a web series available on Hulu called the LXD.
The LXD stands for the Legion of Extraordinary Dances. It is written and produced by Jon Chu, who is also responsible for the Step Up movies. But if you did not like those movies, please do not let that turn you off.  LXD is an example of a high concept that would not get a shot in traditional media.
In short LXD is about a select group of people who have the ability to use dance to activate superpowers. Chu described it as a “Justice League of dance”.  It sounds silly but once you get past that it turns out to be a really good show.
When I first started watching I decided to go in assuming it was an art piece. Each episode features a dance sequence and I figured if nothing else I could appreciate that. And if that is the only level you watch it on that is fine. I am not a dance expert by any means, but the dancing earns the title of extraordinary. The show claims to use no wires or special effects of any kind for the dancing or stunts. If this is true then the talent of the dancers is unreal. They use a mix of several types including hip hop styles, tap, ballet, and in a recent episode Flamenco.
As for the story, by the third episode I was starting to buy in and by the 5th I was sold.
Essentially you have a very classic good vs. evil story. The LXD are our heroes dedicated to protecting the world from those that would use the power (called the RA) for ill. The ones they protect against are Organization X, or the OX. Also in the mix is The Dark Doctor who appears to be against both the LXD and the OX.
The characters are a mix of archetypes having only being misfits in common. They include:
Trevor Drift, a loner high school student who discovers he is a hidden heir of the LXD leadership. When his powers manifest his father is killed and the LXD lead by his previously unknown brother Spex take him in and train him.
Next is Sp3cimen (yes they really spell it that way.) He is a dead soldier brought back to life by the Dark Doctor’s experiments as a human/robot hybrid. He escapes and finds his way to the LXD.
Elliot Hoo is an average man who finds a pair of shoes that grant him the ability to dance and use the RA.
The Fanboyz are a group of nerds (ok Hollywood nerds, but still) from Trevor Drifts high school that learn of the LXD and want to join. They get their RA powers just by trying hard enough to acquire them.
The first 2 seasons of the LXD are 10 episodes long with most episodes being less than 10 minutes long. The current 3rd season is up to 7 episodes. They have not announced how many this season will have, but I suspect it will be 10 again. No word if there is a 4th planned, but as it seems doubtful that they are wrapping up the story soon I suspect there will be one.
Seriously check this one out. Give it a few episodes and I think it will surprise you.