Sunday, December 18, 2011

Self-promotion, continued

Within a much more reasonable timeframe this time around!

As some (most) of you readers know, I'm not just a librarian/writer/raconteur; I'm also Head Scriptwriter for the fangame My Little Pony: Fiends From Dream Valley. Well, we at Dream Valley Games (which I guess is our official "company" name?) have just released a new update video, showing what we've been doing and where we're going. Specifically, we'll be going to BroNYCon, the upcoming brony-fest in New York City, taking place on January 7. We'll be debuting a demo of the first two levels. Anyone in the NYC area should take pains to attend and help feed my already-massive ego.

I've embedded the update video itself below the cut, in case you hate going all the way to YouTube just to watch a video.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The delicate art of self-promotion

I'm ashamed to realize just how much stuff I've been doing that I haven't talked about. I am absolutely terrible at promoting myself, which is ironic, considering that I'm on the Internet and self-promotion is the Internet's primary export. Furthermore, I need to practice this stuff for when I have something actually important to tell you all about.

So! In reverse chronological order:

- Today, I've posted a podcast interview with Dr. Joni Bodart, author of They Suck, They Bite, They Eat, They Kill: The Psychological Meaning of Supernatural Monsters in Young Adult Fiction on The Hub, the official blog of YALSA. Basically I spend an hour talking with this really interesting woman about zombies, werewolves, and vampires, and what they all mean. Take a listen!

- Last Tuesday I was a guest on Thunk Tank, With Bronwyn and Jay, a program on the NYC station WFMU. In it, I talk about, yes, being a 'brony.' Bronwyn and Jay were both really nice, and we ended up having a good conversation about cynicism and sincerity in children's television shows. It was, as they say, a "hoot."

- Lastly, and perhaps most awesomely (and thus most embarrassing that it took me this long to post), a comic I wrote for the webcomic group Carpe Chaos went up back in—gulp—October. It's called Reinvention, and I'm pretty dang proud of it. This comic is, in fact, probably my first paid comics work ever, so why not check it out so you can say you were there at the beginning of my long and ignominious illustrious career?

There may be a few more announcement-type things popping up in the next few weeks; hopefully I'll get to them sooner than I did to this batch. Keep watching the skies! I mean, my blog!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Swedish Chef is my spirit animal

I saw the new muppets movie—you know, the one titled The Muppets—the day after Thanksgiving with my parents. Now, I grew up with the muppets—first Sesame Street, followed by equal amounts of The Muppet Show and The Dark Crystal—so I went into the film with high expectations and strong opinions. Did it live up to all that?

In a word: no.

In many more words: no, and here's why.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Meditation on recent events

After a week of finding books for small children, I am now wearing a My Little Pony t-shirt and preparing to play a Batman video game for the next eight hours, all while thinking about the teenage romance comedy graphic novel about werewolves I'm writing. My life is either going very poorly, or very, very well, and I'm honestly not sure which.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Self-promotion!

I did another post for The Hub, official blog of YALSA, as part of the semi-ongoing "Outside Our Comfort Zone" series, where Sarah Debraski (another teen librarian) and I pick books for each other to read, then discuss them. As usual, I picked a graphic novel (Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson's excellent Beasts of Burden), while Sarah chose a fairy-tale retelling (Robin McKinley's Beauty) for me. What did we think? Well, for that, you'll have to read the post and listen to the podcast, won't you?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Saturday, September 3, 2011

'Doodle' - a Victoria story

As most of you gentle readers probably know, I've got a lot of stories I want to write. Unfortunately, most of them I want to do in comics form, but my own drawing skills are relatively weak, forcing me to work with unreliable and lazy artists. (Hi, Aaron! Hi, Sam! Just kidding!) So I've decided on a compromise: I'm going to do a few short stories from some of my universes, and see if any of them grab people's attention. Hopefully, it grabs your attention enough to give me some money to fund the creation of the full comic. Without further ado, here is 'Doodle', a short story from what will probably be my biggest and most awesome comic, Victoria.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Treasures from the stacks, part one in a never-ending series

So I know there hasn't been much activity on this blog in the last...let's see...month. But there's a very good reason for that: I am extremely friggin' busy. I'm planning five new programs, getting ready for storytime, furnishing my under-furnished apartment, being sick (*cough cough*), and basically doing everything that an adult human does every day.

I plan to do a nice big post on the state of the Glenwood library soon, but in the meantime I present a pictorial interlude of no real value: "Treasures of the Stacks"! All of these items were found in the stacks of the Glenwood library. Most of them I found in the process of weeding, which in library lingo means "removing the crap we don't need," so you can at least take comfort in the knowledge that few of these items can still be checked out. Now, on to the show!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

On privilege

I've been thinking about privilege a lot lately, thanks partly to having discovered the site Microaggresions. It's a collection of anonymous, user-submitted stories of "power, privilege, and everyday life." (Tip of the hat for the site to sexy webcomics goddess Elena Barbarich, a.k.a. Yamino.) Much as we need to pay attention to the giant scandals, the massive hypocrisies, the enormous gaps between those who have privilege and those who don't, we also need to see the minor stories, the moments, the minute-to-minute reminders that the system is unjust and our unconscious beliefs shape our every interaction.

I think part of the reason I'm so interested in privilege is that I've got quite a lot of it. I'm a straight, white, highly educated, cis-gendered male born into a middle-class, two-parent family in middle America. On paper, I'm about as whitebread hetero-normative as you can get. So I want to broaden my horizons as much as possible, remind myself that not everyone has the same advantages and perspectives that I take for granted.

(The site is also helpful, incidentally, for reminding me of all the ways that I'm not whitebread, of all the groups I belong to that don't hold the power. I'm an atheist, for example, which puts me at odds with a huge percentage of America. I don't follow much of mainstream culture, which doesn't exactly make me underprivileged, but certainly marks me as different. And being highly educated is as much an advantage as a disadvantage in certain contexts. I did actually submit my story of the only time I ever felt repressed for being an atheist, but it hasn't shown up yet on the site.)

One of the issues that's bound to come up sooner or later in my new job as a small-town librarian is whether to include books about people who aren't represented in the community. For example, I'm willing to bet Glenwood has no Muslim population to speak of (though I'd love to be proven wrong). Should I then add a book like, say, Does My Head Look Big in This?, about an American Muslim teen? Obviously you want your collection to reflect the needs and desires of your patrons, but you also want to provide materials for them that will enlarge their world. Much as it is important to provide books that reflect the world around your readers, isn't it more important to provide books that reflect the world they don't see?

All of this is largely academic for now, because one of the problems of working in a small-town library is that we have virtually no money for new books. But believe you me, when we get that cheddar, all these musings will bear fruit.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

So far, so good

One week in, and I've already been hugged by an adorable five-year-old girl for finding the book she wanted.

Good start.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Slightly more busy than usual, yes

Two weeks ago I took a job as a children's librarian in a small town in Iowa, which meant moving to a city where I knew literally no one within several hundred miles. Currently I'm subletting an apartment from the daughter of a friend of my mother (long story) while searching for an actual apartment, trying to crank out a 2,500-word essay on one of the longest and most-adapted manga series ever written, and simultaneously looking forward to and dreading my new job, for which I have plenty of training but very little experience.

So I've been a bit distracted, you could say. Sorry to all you loyal blog readers new and old.

It's going to take me a while to resume a normal broadcasting schedule. Let me leave you with some reading material in the meantime: remember the podcast I recorded, the speech defending My Little Pony as an excellent show that no adult male should be ashamed to watch? Well, I've posted the text of that speech on my DeviantArt page, which I hardly ever use. So if you didn't want to listen to my droning voice for more than six and a half minutes, you can now read it instead!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Some initial thoughts on "My Little Pony"

I've been talking a lot about My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic lately, to quite a lot of people. First the episode of Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me! a few weeks ago, then a few segments on a local comics podcast I do with a few friends, The Geek Report. In particular, I recorded a separate podcast episode of the Report, only about three minutes long, in which I read a prepared, written statement on my feelings about both the show and the media coverage thereof.

Here's the thing. I didn't set out to become a spokesperson for the brony community. I don't think I'm the right person to be that spokesperson. And I certainly don't feel like being that spokesperson on a regular basis. But if my various ramblings and incoherent explanations of this weird subculture can contribute at all to its acceptance by a wider audience, then hey, I'm content to keep explaining my love of ponies and their magical friendship to anyone who'll listen.

I've said quite a bit on my various appearances, but there's two more points I haven't really been able to cover. The first is why I think there's been so much mockery of and downright hate towards the fans of MLP:FiM. Virtually every media forum in the world seems to have made fun of us at some point or another—heck, one of the first stories about bronies came from Fox News, the pinnacle of ill-informed hate. The obvious answer for why we've endured such opprobium is that it's just the latest in a long line of objects, ideas, and media that grown men should have "grown out of" long ago. Comic books, action figures, video games, animated television shows: all these are hallmarks of childhood (boyhood specifically), and thus should be left behind once we leave childhood. Anyone who admits to still enjoying anything from this list is seen as being in a state of suspended childhood, unwilling or unable to grow up and accept adult responsibilities.

But I think there's another reason for this mockery, especially that mockery which comes from other "suspended children"—that is to say, other nerdy subcultures. It's an obvious and accepted truism that we put others down to feel better about ourselves, and this only becomes more true—or perhaps more visible—the more we need to feel better about ourselves. The more we feel we are under attack, the more we look for someone else to attack, and nerds are nothing if not under attack by the "normal" world. Thus, we find someone lower on the totem pole to mock: the Star Trek fan makes fun of the Star Wars fan; the action figure collector looks down on the comic collector; the video gamer feels superior to the Dungeons & Dragons player. For a variety of reasons—the show's newness, its "girly-ness," the fact that its fans self-identify using a fairly ridiculous name—MLP:FiM fans are currently the absolute lowest on that totem pole.

Will that change? Maybe. Eventually. Hopefully. Once people realize that liking a show for young girls does not diminish adult viewers, especially adult males, and that the show itself is actually good, their opinions will change. But that'll take a major cultural shift, I think, because of how firmly certain notions of gender and adulthood are entrenched in American society. (And, probably, elsewhere, but I'm only really familiar with America, so.)

The other point I wanted to make, and which demonstrates perhaps most conclusively that us bronies are not horrible weird perverts, is that the creators of the show themselves have acknowledged us and accepted us as just another group of fans. Lauren Faust, creator of MLP:FiM, had this to say when someone commented on her DeviantArt page about bronies:


This makes me extremely happy for two reasons: first, obviously, it shows that Mrs. Faust knows we're out there and understands that we're not strange perverted freaks, but second, it confirms what I've been saying all along, that the show is enjoyed by these adult males not because it caters to them but simply because it's good. Other people who've worked on the show have responded to fans, answered questions, and otherwise made it clear that they regard bronies as just another group of fans. They acknowledge that, while the show isn't made for adult viewers—officially, lest we forget, the show's demographic is 6- to 8-year-old girls, and I think it's perfect for that audience—anyone can and should be able to derive enjoyment from it.

Frankly, I feel sorry for Faust and everyone else who's worked on the show, because their hard work and talent are being ignored in favor of talking about these supposedly messed-up fans. The story is "hey look at these weirdos who like a show for little girls," when it should be "hey look at this show based on a toy franchise that is actually really good." A great deal of time, effort, and love went into this show, and from the stories that have been published, you'd think its only viewers are unemployed 30-year-old Asperger's sufferers.

As with all my other appearances, I have no idea whether this will change anyone's mind about the show and its fans. But I'd like to try.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Because people might have been Googling for me

My name is Ted Anderson, and I'm a former intern for the NPR show Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me! I'm a blogger, an aspiring librarian, a comics writer, and a podcaster.

I am also a fan of the new television series My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, also known as a "brony." If you've been reading my blog for a while now, you'll notice that I haven't actually talked about my love of this show before; if you've just discovered this blog, I'm guessing it's because I just appeared on Wait, Wait (specifically, the June 25, 2011 episode) to talk about being a brony, and you Googled my name and a few other terms ("pony," for example) and found this post. I've discussed the show quite a bit with my friends—see here for an example—but not on this blog. Partly that's out of laziness, but it's also partly because this blog is, to some extent, my professional face on the Internet, and I'd like to seem as professional as possible, which means not talking about how I think this show for little girls is awesome.

But what the heck. I may as well capitalize on my fame, right?

Expect a post from me on my feelings about the show and its fandom in the next few days. In the meantime, I'm also a co-host of a weekly podcast in the Minneapolis area, the Geek Report, and in our most recent episode, posted June 26, 2011, we discussed the show and why it's seen as shameful for adult males to enjoy it. If you enjoyed my appearance on Wait, Wait, you should give this podcast a listen, to hear me explain more coherently and cohesively just what it is about the show that I like. Of course, you can also read through my previous posts on this blog about comics, libraries and librarians, movies, and so forth. I hope you like what you find!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Ted's thoughts on X-Men: First Class

I liked it. I honestly, genuinely liked it. Which, to be fair, I was kind of expecting to, because the reviews I'd seen had been generally positive.

X-Men as a comic has always been dense with history—not just because it's been around for almost fifty years, but in the sense that many of its major characters have decades (sometimes centuries) of backstory, turning them into complex knots of motivations, desires, hatreds, beliefs, and so forth. Its two central poles, Magneto and Professor X, each have particularly rich histories, explaining how two men from very different backgrounds became the closest of friends, then the bitterest of enemies. At first, I thought the very last thing a film series that's already had four films, each packed with dozens of major characters, should do is delve even deeper into its own mythology—particularly after the last two of those films were such stinkers—but it ends up working out: they introduce essentially a whole new cast, injecting some new blood into the franchise, while explaining a bit more about those we already knew.

First Class also finally strikes just the right balance of sobriety and camp. If you've talked with me about superhero films for any length of time, I've probably given you my speech about how I hate the Spider-Man movies, mostly from the schlock factor. Sam Raimi is not an understated director; his movies are big and splashy, every emotion played out across the entire screen. I dislike that, in a comic book movie. I want the material to be fun, sure, but taking itself at least a little bit seriously. The first two X-Men films hit that perfect note for me: the plots were about stopping bad guys from doing something horrible to the world, yes, but with more pathos and emotional density than your standard action flick. They were big, and over-the-top in terms of plot, but the actual mood was more subdued, more character-driven. It's the same reason I love Terminator 2.

No movie is perfect, of course. I mentioned the "new blood" of the cast, but the focus is still on Magneto and Professor X. Their arc is great, and well-handled, but it does mean the other characters tend to be underdeveloped. Most of the young mutants get only a sentence or two to really show off their characters—not necessarily a bad thing in a splashy big-budget yet mythology-heavy movie like this, but it sure doesn't make me want to go out and see X-Men Origins: Banshee.

January Jones is godawful as an actress. I'm pretty sure the producers of Mad Men, when they were casting Betty Draper, were looking specifically for a woman who was almost totally emotionless because everything was being bottled up and tightly controlled. Unfortunately, they didn't realize that January Jones wasn't acting.

Some of the new mutant characters, both good guys and bad, are pretty odd choices. X-Men, by virtue of its subject matter, its longevity, and its premise, has an extremely large and diverse catalog of characters. So why, when you're looking for two Bad Mutants to round out Kevin Bacon's villainous crew, do you pick an extremely terrible and utterly despised character created by one of the most hated writers ever to take on the mutants, and a character so long-forgotten even I hadn't heard of him? Same goes for more than one of the First Class themselves (though I was delighted by the inclusion and Nicholas Hoult's portrayal of Hank McCoy).

At this point I'm going to start bringing in spoilers, so the rest of this scatterbrained review will be below a cut. Click through if you've seen the movie yourself, or if you just don't care.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Ted reviews Marimo Ragawa's Baby & Me

I'm going back to a classic, here, in more ways than one. Marimo Ragawa's series Baby & Me was published from 1991 to 1997, which qualifies it as a classic in my book. But it's also a series that I finished reading last year, and which I haven't re-read since, so I may be a little fuzzy on some of the details. However, I'm not fuzzy on my general opinion of the series: it's very, very good, and definitely worthy of your time.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Isaac & Ida, episode 7: U of C Guy!

In this installment of the insanely popular comic strip Isaac & Ida, I introduce the sensational new character find of 2004: U of C Guy!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Transsexuality and the Farrelly brothers

So at some point in my life, I saw the movie Shallow Hal.

I honestly have no idea when, or in what context. Quite possibly I watched it on a bus, during my high school band's annual trip down to Branson, Missouri. (Yes, really.) But somehow I saw it, and there's a scene from it that's always stuck with me.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Isaac & Ida, episode 6: The Death of Theory (and Derrida)

Yet another installment looking at the cartoons I produced for my college newspaper. Today's cartoon is one I'm actually fairly proud of, for a variety of reasons, and I'm pleased to share it with all of you. Please, friends: enjoy.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Not actually dead

So, yeah. Haven't been around in a while, have I?

There's two reasons for my prolonged absence. The first, the one that makes me feel good about myself, is that I've had a sudden influx of cool projects and opportunities that I need to spend more time on: a couple essays to write, a fellowship to make use of, a podcast to speak on, a book proposal to...propose. Also, my father just bought an Xbox 360 with a Kinect, so you can understand my need to explore this innovative and exciting new technology. Yes.

The other reason, the one that's a little more depressing, is that I'm in a rut. And after you're in a rut for long enough, you get to enjoy that rut, and resist any efforts to leave it. And writing blog posts simply isn't part of that rut.

Still working. Still alive. Still planning to tell all you lovely folks about my work and my alive-ness. Don't worry, I'm not going away.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Ted's triumphant return to podcasting

Some of my long-time readers may remember that I was once part of a podcast made up of local comics geeks, called, appropriately, The Geek Report. Some of you may also remember that this podcast then stopped happening for a while. Well, fret no more, loyal audiophiles, for the Geek Report is back! Lance and myself are returning for "season two," and we're now joined by Lupi Loops McGinty (note: may not be her real name) and David Cohen. Enjoy our semi-coherent ramblings, won't you?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

On video game design

I've been talking a fair bit with a friend of mine about video games: how they're designed, what they do for us and our brains, and what makes the difference between a good game and a great one. In the spirit of sharing, I thought I'd put my two cents out on the Internet for all to enjoy. Join me, won't you?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

At least they thought Miles Davis was okay

Back when people still bought encyclopedia sets, Britannica used to include a 'Book of the Year' for each new edition, summing up the changes in various entries for the previous year. From the Book of the Year 1957 entry on Music, Popular:

Most of the popular songs of 1956 had little to recommend them artistically, and the best of them were either revivals from the past or imitations of tried and true materials. The Elvis Presley hysteria began with a rhythmic monstrosity called "Blue Suede Shoes" and continued through "Heartbreak Hotel" to the primitive "Hound Dog." Eventually "the Pelvis" arrived at a straightforward ballad, "Love Me Tender,' which served as the title of his first motion picture and was copied note for note from the old "Aura Lee," also known as "Army Blue" and "The Violet."

Monday, February 7, 2011

Ted versus his past selves

I have an adversarial relationship with the previous iterations of myself.

No, I'm not talking about reincarnation. (Although I'm pretty sure that, in a past life, I was an Aztec warrior.) I'm talking about the fact that not only do I feel disconnected from what I've done when I was younger, what I was like at previous points in my life, I'm downright hostile towards these previous selves. I don't want to be reminded of them, I don't want to acknowledge they exist, and when necessary I even try to erase evidence that they ever happened.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Guys Read book club: summer '10, session 3, Mice Templar vol. 1

Unsurprisingly, it's been so long since I actually did this book club session that I've forgotten most of what happened. The price I pay for my procrastination, I suppose.

Most of what I've already said about boys and books is applicable here, too: they like the ones with violence, they get off-topic easily, they think explosions are cool, etc. There is one thing I noticed with this session, though, which is that boys are competitive. Shocking, I know.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Thoughts on Tangled, and kids' movies in general

I saw the 50th feature-length fully-animated film from Disney Studios, Tangled, yesterday, and nobody was more surprised than I when I found myself enjoying it quite a bit. I've seen a lot of films made for children in my life, and maybe it's the prematurely crotchety old person in me, but it seems as though they've been getting steadily worse over the years. Tangled was by no means a perfect movie, but it had something that I've found to be missing from virtually every other children's film made in the last fifteen or so years: sincerity.

This is something of a nebulous concept; I've been wracking my brains to determine how best to describe what I'm looking for in kids' films for some time now, and "sincerity" is only the best that I can do. What I mean by it is, first, that the filmmakers are actually crafting a story, not just putting together a sequence of "hilarious" moments and songs. Their first priority should not making characters suitable for action figures and putting on lunchboxes, but making characters that live and breathe. But really, this applies to any film, not just kids' films.