Karen's Rants and Raves

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Monday 10 May 2010

On Doctor Who Season 5 (so far)

Doctor Who Season 5

Four episodes in (I'm watching at the BBC-America pace), the new season of Doctor Who is leaving me cold, and I'm hard-pressed to explain why. It's not like it used to be good, and now it's bad; far from it. If anything, these recent episodes have been on a much more even keel than I'm used to for this show, which in the past has oscillated between being absolutely brilliant and embarrassingly terrible on a minute-to-minute basis (and I seriously do envy the fans who either can't see, or successfully ignore, the embarrassingly terrible parts.)

In fact, there's absolutely nothing wrong with Season 5 so far, and quite a few things right with it; I'm secure enough in my femininity to admit that Karen Gillan is ridiculously adorable as Amy Pond. So why am I having such a hard time caring?

The easy answer is that I haven't taken to Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor, which is half-true; I'm not that keen on his acting style (and my bias against him is admittedly well-documented), but he's usually convincing as a 900-plus-years-old alien, which is a pretty darned impressive feat for someone in his twenties. Besides, I like most of the previous incarnations of the Doctor (especially Tom Baker and Peter Davison) quite a bit, so I'm not married to the Tenth Doctor- err, so to speak. Tennant's Doctor was the first one I ever saw on screen, but the first full season I watched was Christopher Eccleson's, who I liked better at that time. Another changing of the guard, actor-wise, really shouldn't be a deal-breaker for me.

The writing has to be the answer, for the simple reason that the writing comprises each and every thing that happens on the show. However, current head writer Steven Moffat has written most of my favorite DW episodes, and I tend to like the way he thinks. While there have been some plot holes in these episodes, that's more due to the nature of the medium than anything else; in most sci-fi television, even if they wanted to drag out the pacing of the show by explaining how everything works (which they absolutely don't), the constraints of the television serial don't allow them the time. I don't really need to have it explained to me why the current crop of Weeping Angels seem to operate by different rules than the ones in Blink; I'm more or less happy assuming that a proper explanation is out there, somewhere, and I could find out if I really cared. In general, the writing seems pretty decent- although I had hoped we would get less of the Doctor's insufferable self-mythologizing ("what do you never, ever ever put in a trap? ME!!!"), I probably should have known better. Smith isn't as good as being gleefully obnoxious during these monologues as Tennant was, but come to think of it, being gleefully obnoxious is basicaslly Tennant's God-given talent in life; it's not exactly a fair comparison.

I had said at one point that I wished Doctor Who would end, and I guess that's the real reason- I'm not looking for the show to simply be good, I'm looking for it to justify its continued existence, and how could it possibly do that? The last DW episode that felt right to me was The Waters of Mars, because it actually broke new ground for the show and for the character- in fact, maybe it did a little too much of that. Really, the Doctor finally giving in to the temptation to go on a really ugly power-trip is the kind of thing you would expect to be saved for The Last Doctor Who Story. I was musing that DW should end before The Waters of Mars aired, and while it proved that I had been wrong about the show having nowhere left to go, it made me feel even more strongly that they were building to an actual conclusion. Russel T. Davies explained The Waters of Mars as a story that they could only tell once with this character- by which he meant Tennant's Doctor, the tenth incarnation. However, you can't keep telling us that the Doctor is fundamentally the same person since the 1960's, and then expect us to forget that whenever it's convenient. Davies was totally right; that was a story you could only tell once. And they've done more than one of those.

The main idea behind Doctor Who is that you don't actually know who the Doctor is; the fact that you'll never truly know dovetails with the fact that we'll never truly understand how things really went down in the historical periods the show chronicles, or what things will be like after we die. But there comes a point where you feel that if you don't know everything, you at least know enough that what you don't know doesn't weigh heavily on your mind anymore. I still don't know who the Eleventh Doctor is, but frankly, I know enough.

I'm still going to watch the rest of the season- hey, it's not like I have much else non-animated stuff to watch on TV. But it's a very strange situation to be left so apathetic by something, and yet so incapable of finding something legitimate to criticize.

Wednesday 6 January 2010

Internships Everywhere!

War with Hello Kitty

In addition to being at war with Hello Kitty, apparently I am now also at war with every HR department in the world. To tell you the truth, it's been a cold war up until now anyway, and it's nice to get everything out in the open.

I'm getting sick of how the term 'internship' has become so broad in meaning that it now seems to cover everything from slave labor on up. I respect internships, I am in fact technically interning right now, but this is getting ridiculous.

Okay guys, I understand that you can get away with it- I understand how, in this day and age, you can get away with offering nothing but "experience", especially if you're a publishing house or magazine with a degree of name recognition, to people who aren't even necessarily college students- just people you don't want to have to pay. I can dislike it until the end of time, but hey, I understand.

But do you have to be so brazen in your claims that your interns will do the exact same work as your staff? Do you have to make it sound like working for free is a privilege, that people should be proud to merely have the opportunity to send their resumes to you? Why do you make it sound like I should be thanking you for offering to cover my metro card for transportation, like this bountiful gift should reduce me to tears, speechless in the vastness of your magnanimity? Why do you have to go on endlessly about how I must adapt to your "fast-paced, professional environment", when you're the one who needs to call in what's basically a slave laborer in order to meet deadlines? It sounds like if anything, it's you who needs my fast-paced, professional ability to get the work done that I signed up to do.

Then there are the internships with "stipends", where it's a paying job that they call an internship so they can get around the fact that they're paying less than minimum wage, but you know what? I'm not even complaining about that; more power to you, you guys. The situation seems to have gotten so bad that you have to give your respect to the people who still feel morally obligated to pay something, anything at all. Also, in those cases I've noticed that they usually don't make a huge deal out of the stipend in the listings, and instead just make it obvious that they respect your time enough to at least cover your transportation costs and maybe a cup of coffee.

And then, there are those few who offer paying internships that are actually right and proper paying internships, and then I have to wonder what they're doing in the internships section. Hey, you could get away with calling it a job at this point and move up in the world, you know? Sure, even the proper paid internship offers nothing that even vaguely resembles health coverage, but who expects that anywhere? I'm not crazy or anything.

Thursday 10 December 2009

Comics, Decisions, Decisions about comics

DJB treehouse mock-up

You may have noticed that, between the book talk and music essays and such, I try to blog about topics other than my personal dilemmas; I would hate to create the kind of self-indulgent blog that's of no use or interest to anyone but myself. That said, a personal blog is the place to put down some of your personal feelings and musings- especially for someone like me, who writes a lot but usually has to abide by certain topical constraints. This is the place where, instead of worrying if something is 'appropriate for the readership' or not, I can just jot down whatever. So I've decided that I won't hold back from strictly personal blogging on occasion, but I will tag it 'personal' and let readers decide to read it or dismiss it as they see fit.

The header image is a piece that I'm working on for Dark Juice Box, a project that has become problematic as of late. A few months ago, I had realized that just because ''Sterling'' is always going to be a sporadic comic, that doesn't mean that I'm strictly incapable of doing a regular webcomic. I look at something like XKCD, and think "you know, I could really do that." My MO has always been to attempt something incredibly ambitious and fail, rather than attempt something more feasible and succeed. It's just part of my nature to be that way, but enduring all the fail does get tiresome; nothing teaches you like failure, but it's not worthwhile if you can't turn those lessons into something better.

The idea behind DJB was that it was going to be a much easier comic to do than Sterling, and that updating it regularly would take priority over everything else, something I've never done before. I figured that if a page of DJB took me two or three hours as opposed to, oh, I don't know, twenty, updating two or three times a week really would not be a big deal at all. So I could do DJB, have the experience of doing a real and proper webcomic, and still keep plugging away on Sterling in the background like I always have.

This was all great in theory, especially because I'm a lot older now than when I started Sterling, and there are obvious advantages that come with that. However, the more I worked on DJB, the more I realized that I'd created a monster that didn't fit the format. Instead of a simplistically drawn webcomic, DJB would require lush, colorful images, more vivid than anything I've ever done with Sterling, and if anything, would be far more dependent on the art than Sterling. If you're curious about what this would look like, the whole "Northern Continent" sequence was kind of a test run for the art style in DJB.

So, what do I do now? I like what DJB is turning into, and I think it has serious potential- I always wanted to do a fantasy comic as a kid, and now it feels like I'm doing what I've always wanted to do. But I'm hardly giving up Sterling. Yet, I'm certainly not going to have two sporadically-updating, soul-sucking, time-devouring webcomics- that sounds like the surest recipe for going insane that I've ever heard. I could come up with something else as my "easy" webcomic project, but what, am I supposed to have THREE comics going on? In the midst of blogging, writing for newspapers, and other projects? More insanity. Oh, and did I mention that Sterling needs to be reformatted like a son-of-a-bitch? Forget even adding new art, all of it needs to be cleaned up, and the earlier pages need to be broken up into multiples for better readability. When I started doing webcomics, there really were very few standards for this kind of thing, but now there are, and webcomic readers expect certain things, with good reason. But how can doctoring up the archives take priority over updating new stuff?

Right now, I'm putting off making any decisions on any of this, and focusing on finishing a few projects that have been on the cusp of completion for a while- this includes things like my Nine Inch Nails series, my Parasite Eve series on Destructoid, and most importantly, Kids, Sterling Chapter Two. There are many possible solutions- one is to just save DJB for a couple of years from now when I finish Sterling, so I will actually have a plan for "life after Sterling." Another idea is to not even try to do DJB as a comic, but instead do it as something more like a light novel series with illustrations- that way, I can draw the kind of images that I feel are integral to telling the story, but I don't have to waste hours and hours drawing people doing mundane things like walking to school and opening doors. Both are decent ideas (and come to think of it, I can combine them for maximum effectiveness), but does that mean I'm never to have a real and proper webcomic? That just seems really disappointing somehow.

Anyway, after being on back-burner status ever since I started writing for Japanator, "Kids" is now front and center and will be concluding shortly. What's awesome is, I've drawn every background I need in this chapter already, so I can just borrow that stuff from my image library and focus on the stuff I actually want to draw. Bwah hahah, it's like hacking I tell you.

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