Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The New Media Paradigm Strikes Back

I have not hidden the fact that I am a fan of professional wrestling. Yes, I know it is predetermined and scripted. When done right it is fun. I am not current with the WWE or TNA at the moment. I miss my WWE on demand subscription. The reason I miss it is all of their retrospective programming on the older events and performers. Right now I prefer going back. The newer personalities are not doing it for me. WWE finally launched their Network. They could not convince the cable companies to sign on.  So they did the next best thing. They launched it as a streaming channel and an on demand service via the internet, game consoles, Tablets, Internet streaming devices (ROKU and Apple TV) and so on. Here is the kicker if you agree pay for 6 months of service you get Pay-Per- Views Live streaming. What are they charging? 9.99 a month. That seems a lot. However this includes their entire library from the late 40's to the present. All of the collected libraries from WCW, ECW, WCCW, AWA, FCW, Jim Crockett Promotions (NWA from the 70's to 80's) and more. That means they have over 60 years of Professional Wrestling History to play with. They own it. Unlike Netflix no licensing fees. Even if you are not a fan of the present iteration of WWE, there still could be programming that would interest you. If I had it I would get it. That is just me.  The new pay-per-view model with WWE Network so far has led to one content provider, Dish Network, refusing to carry any WWE pay-pre-views.  DirecTV has grumbled about following suit.  Other providers are going to wait month to month to see how things work out. 

WWE a major media corporation just entered the New Media Paradigm.  Vincent K. McMahon has been trying to create a WWE channel for over a decade.  Other larger Media Corporations have made money off of him.  They also refused to let him play.  In the early eighties when he gained control of his company then the World Wide Wrestling Federation he wished to do things against convention.  During that time Wrestling Promotions were regional and you did not set up shop in a region without permission of the head of the region.  Vincent K. McMahon wished to go national.  He got shows on cable and started selling shows to various television markets.  When he was told no, he did it anyway or found a way around it.  He has done that again, this time with going streaming and on demand with content. 

The cable companies are still clinging to the old paradigm and they are losing ground.  There is a movement of cable cutters; they use the internet to access film and television.  The Cable companies then make agreements with content providers, Television Networks, Cable Networks and other Media Corporations, that force the need of a cable or satellite provider to access the content on the internet.  There is a demand for a la carte cable and satellite services.  There is also a demand for those without cable or satellite to pay for a subscription for internet access to content.  These corporations are refusing to do so and losing money to make their business partners happy.  Vincent. K. McMahon is tired of waiting for them.  I may not have agreed with many of his tactics, but this one makes absolute sense.

Music companies are also making huge mistakes by not signing acts that challenge conventional thinking in style and genre.  These acts are taking their work directly to the people through iTunes, Amazon and other internet music services.  Steam Powered Giraffe would have been ignored by the old media paradigm.  In fact they combine, street performance, Mime, theatre with folk and pop music.  They are gaining quite a following producing and selling their work through the internet music outlets.  Lindsay Sterling, The Piano Guys, Peter Hollens, Pentatonix, Street Corner Renaissance, Adam WarRock, The Doubleclicks and many more are doing the same thing.  Corporate media companies are losing ground in a serious way.  They are also losing the ability to be taste makers.  Due to the global nature of the internet, acts that had limited access to other parts of the world are going viral.  Gotye and PSY are evidence of this.  

Old school book publishers are struggling too.  Independent publishers and are gaining serious ground in this new electronic system.  In the past publishers took on internet savvy writers known for self-publishing assuming they did not have to put a dime into promotion.  That was a mistake.  Amazon is not repeating it.  They have scooped up some of those authors the traditional publishers let go.  Others went back to their roots of self-publishing.  They are succeeding selling their works through various e-pub sites.  Comics Books have gotten into the mix too.  ComiXology and DriveThruComics are working with Indie Publishers and Self-Publishers to gain new access.  Recently Amazon bought ComiXology.  This will work, because more options for sales does the company well monetarily.  DC and Marvel unlike their counterparts in Traditional Publishing are getting into the act.  They have digital first comics titles that are published online months prior to print.   

All of these changes have made me hopeful for the Evolution of Media into the New Media Paradigm.  There still will be those with a vested interest in the old paradigm kicking and screaming themselves into irrelevance.  That Is My Not So Humble Opinion.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Shadowrun & Me

My favorite Table Top Role-Playing Game of all time is Shadowrun.  My history with it is storied.  First, I need to explain what the Shadowrun setting is.  Shadowrun mixes two genres Cyberpunk and Fantasy. For the uninitiated Cyberpunk is a genre of Science Fiction.  Cyberpunk is in the near future usually less than a hundred years.  Key elements are cybernetics/bionics, the ability to directly connect the human mind to the internet and the power of Mega-corporations usurping the power of nations.  It uses elements from Hard Boiled Detective stories, Film Noir and Nihilism.  Shadowrun is set in the 2060 to 2070’s where magic has also returned.  People are born Elves and Dwarves or suffer Goblinization, which results in becoming Orks or Trolls.  The Mega-Corporations are the true power in this world.  When magic came back cultures that had magical traditions regained power.  In North America this meant the rise of Native American Nations who break off from the US and Canada.  The game is primarily set in Seattle, which is part of the remainder of the US and Canada (they unified), however it is surrounded by the Native American Nations.  The game is Cyborgs, Elves, Dragon, Hackers (called Deckers in the game), Wizards, Shamans, and Bio-Tech.  It is a brave new old world.

The game first came out in 1989 and I was into it from the start.  My first campaign however was in the setting, but not the rules.  My roommate at the time preferred Hero System rules, same rules as those used in the Superhero RPG Champions.  He used other settings but always used those rules.  I played in that campaign from 1990 till 1991.  When I moved from Eugene and back to the Portland area, I ended up with a new gaming group.  This is when I starting using the rules that came with the setting.  Our main Gamemaster and I alternated running the game so each of us got to play.  Generally, I was the head Gamemaster for Shadowrun. My areas of expertise were Metahumans (the catch all term for non-human humanoids), Magic (specifically Shamanic Magic), and the Native American Nations.  I loved the research, which lead me to discover Neo-Paganism and Shamanism as personal spiritual paths.  I did not like dealing with the personal politics.  At one point my players decided to try to get rid of an annoying character.  When the plan failed and the Player of said character got upset, everyone turned on me.  This pointed out some of my social limitations.  I had players that wanted their character histories to be hush hush, and they became upset when I fleshed it out in scenarios.  I was with that gaming group for four years.  When I left, I was made to feel I was stabbing people in the back.  I left for the most part because going became a chore.  It was no longer fun.

I still kept my Shadowrun game books and novels.  I was still buying the newer sourcebooks.  In 1997, I started a Shadowrun website called Dreamsinger’s Circle.  The site was mostly stuff about the Shamanic Magic tradition in the game.  I included new totems, new cultural paths, new takes on Shamanism itself, and articles about various Shamanic subjects.  For the uninitiated, in Shamanic lore the totem is the spirit animal that a Shaman embodies.  I expanded the site to included rants and campaign setting materials from my own campaigns.  I gained a decent following in both the online Shadowrun community and the AOL gaming community.  I never got into the various attempts at Shadowrun video games.  At the time, I did not have a video game console or a PC that was up to specs.  I continued working on my site.  In December of 1998, I bought the newest Magic Sourcebook and found many of my ideas in the book; the concepts were universal enough that one could claim independent inspiration.  However I knew the Author was a fan of the site.  It just left a bad taste in my mouth.  It stung especially when I had failed multiple times to convince FASA, Shadowrun’s publisher to take me on as a contributor.  I should have tried to publish in various gaming magazines before trying to submit something directly to the publisher.   I was young and impetuous.  In 2000, I decided to close the site and I sold most of my Shadowrun gaming books.  I figured that I had spent enough time and effort playing in someone else’s sandbox.  I decided that I would try to concentrate on my own creations.  Life happened and I still need to work on those. Now with a new lease on life possibilities are endless.  I will tell you this; I still love that world and its concepts.  It gave me an outlet that helped me hone my writing skills.  In many ways Dreamsinger’s Circle was the prototype for this blog.  This Has Been My Not So Humble Opinion.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


Here are so of my observations from that last year that originally appeared on my Facebook page.  I hope you enjoy.

January 11th, 2013

I was listening to Ham-Fisted Radio Today and Dawn Taylor was talking about her avocado dog video featuring Huell Howser. It reminds me of a family story. In the House I grew up in there was a huge Avocado tree. The tree bore softball sized fruit due to sitting on top of the septic tank. In the Eighties my brother and I had a pair of Cocker Spaniels. They loved avocados they used to jump up and pick them then hide them behind a shed covered in leaves to ripen. One year My Maternal Grandmother came to help out since My Mom was in the hospital. Grandma thought dogs eating avocados was a waste, since they were rare in Oregon at the time where she lived. So here she was in Southern California warring with two Cocker Spaniels over their stash of Avocados. Those Dogs hated her for taking their treats. So every time I hear Avocados and Dogs I remember the Avocado war between my Dogs and my Grandma.

February 15th, 2013

I bought Warren Ellis: Captured Ghosts. It is a documentary about Warren Ellis and his impact of Popular Culture. At one point of my life Mr. Ellis was there everyday. I discovered him at the end of his Warren Ellis Forum era. When I was working as Tech Support for the First Cable Modem system, I would hang out in the Forum. I was not as impactful as some of the folks there. I talked from time to time with People like Matt Fraction and Larry Young. I never went on to create my own art like many of these others, YET. A major impediment to my creativity is gone. I am trying to get myself in a better head space to create. My problem is too many possibilities. I want to cook, I want to write and I want to create something. I have things that have been swimming in my head for decades ready to get out. The other thing I need to work out is to change the way I interact with the world. That main thing has to do with trying to avoid finding myself doing the same things I always have. I do not want history to repeat which has been occurring for the last few decades. It’s funny how a Movie instigates all this introspection. Right now I am looking for full time work. I am not going to be too picky. Then I am going to start doing things to begin the next phase: Writing, cooking and planning.

May 19th, 2013

So after watching Rush's Induction or as Neil Pert put it Indictment to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I am stoked that I am going to the July 28th Concert at the Clark County Amphitheater. Mind you I have only been to 3 other Musical Concerts purposefully. I do not count a few State fairs or Amusement Parks (Magic Mountain, Knott's Berry Farm or Disneyland). Those cases I was there and not for the concert. Only one time did I want to go to an Amusement park concert but my church group was leaving early. So I missed Cheap Trick in 1984. Since then I saw Stryper 1985, Anthrax, Primus, and Public Enemy 1991 (Bring the Noise Tour), and the H/.O.R.D.E. Festival (Blues Traveler, Lenny Kravitz, Dave Matthews Band and Rusted Root) 1996. Now I have been to four different WWE events in Portland, but those are different than your standard concert. Rush is my favorite band of all time. One of the first I discovered without my Uncle Bob or Cousin Steve. Both are older than me (8 years Bob and 4 years Steve). I have tried to go before this but my situation was not conducive. I have a Bucket list of things I want to do. Not because anything bad. It is due to having my freedom. I put off so much for others. I am going to be a bit more about my needs without being a complete selfish jerk.

August 11th, 2013

So I watched Last season and this season of Food Network Star. Justin Warner last Season's winner does not have a regular show on Food Network or its Sister Channel Cooking Channel. What the hell. He has made two pilots for two different concepts, Culinary Rebel with a cause and Rebel Eats. Neither has spawned a show. Alton Brown was taken off as a producer as well. I have no proof, but it seems to me that their may be something fishy there at the network. Winners from the first season are gone. Their show was on only one season. Second season winner is still there Guy Fieri. Third season winner her show only had six episodes. Aaron McCargo, Jr had three seasons of his show. Melissa d'Arabian only had three seasons of her show. Aarti Sequeira only had three Seasons of her show. Jeff Mauro has had two shows so he seems to be doing better. My word of advice to Damaris Phillips the newest winner, just because you won does not guarantee you will become a Star on that network. Three Small seasons of a show seem to be the average for the winners of Food Network Star. Three seasons is about a year and a half on the network. Sorry for the screed. It just had me wondering.

August 20th, 2013

Finished watching the second episode of Heroes of Cosplay and it irritated me. These sizeist women are judging large people who cosplay. Mind you I have thought of cosplaying and I know I am a obese dude. The ideas I have thrown around, Modern version of Uncle Marvel of the Marvel Family, Armstrong of Archer and Armstrong, Shadowrun Trolls or Orks, Volstag the Voluminous and a few other characters of larger girth. Being my size I could do Kilowog or an original alien Green Lantern. Heck there is even an oversize flash character from the future. Me, I know what works with my body type, but that does not give me the right to tell others not to do something. I recently saw a list of 95 of the "worst" cosplayers. I get frustrated with people using the anonymity of the internet to be totally cruel jerks. Some of the costumes were bad for quality of work. Others were just there because of a unique body type of body feature that was different from the norm. Yes there are choices that can be just wrong like Caucasians painting themselves to be a person of color. I wonder about our society. We have wonderful ads from Dove showing women with real bodies that they are beautiful then you got stuff like this. Sorry for the screed. I have been working to get away from a judgmental paradigm in my life. So it irritates me when I see others do it.

November 6th, 2013

Two recent reality shows have become casualties to my competition show method of watching TV. On Various cooking competitions shows I watch what the challenge it then fast forward to the judging. I may stop when there is a monkey wrench thrown it by the show. These two shows should be competition show but are not. Those shows are Heroes of Cosplay and Naked Vegas. I am interested in both from an artistic point of view. I fast forward to find out what their projects are fast forward to see the finished project. In Heroes of Cosplay I would get to the Competition section and what the other costumes are but fast forward through most of the BS. I started doing this after the second episode. Since I have learned that much of the conflict on Heroes of Cosplay was manufactured for the show by the producers. That is the problem with Reality shows they act like they are documentaries when they are not. I got savvy to this with Gene Simmons' and the Real housewives show years ago. OK, there are my feelings about it. I love the artistic expression in both shows but I do not care for the "drama" real or manufactured. 

When I first heard of Heroes of Cosplay and Naked Vegas, I thought we were getting another Face Off type show not the Reality stuff. I stopped watching Hell's Kitchen due to  the fact the contestants seem to be dumber and dumber each succeeding year. Shows where the challenges are specific endeavors like Top Chef, Master Chef, Face Off, and the like work better than the others. I am not saying they are not manufactured bits to those. I fast forward through those parts.

November 16th, 2013

Over the years I have tried Multiple Traditional Set Fantasy series in pseudo- Medieval settings. They do not resonate with me. I like Urban Fantasy, but most of it is typically all Vampires and Werewolves. There are some that are not like that, Mortal Instruments and the Harry Potter series. The Vamps and Weres are the glut. One of my Favorite series, the Dresden Files, has Vamps and Weres but that is not the central point of the series. I enjoy Victorian Era set Fantasy and Sci-Fi. That is due to the fact of cutting my teeth on Jules Verne, H.G. Wells and Edgar Rice Burroughs. So I am enjoying the Steampunk. However I would never be able to write in it. I like the Metamor City setting. It is a Urban almost Cyberpunk meets magic setting in a world that was a Medieval Fantasy setting that evolved. I also like Shadowrun which is set in a Future Earth where magic came back so Fantasy meets cyberpunk as well. My favorite author, Charles de Lint, does what is referred to as Mythic Fiction. He skirts the typical Urban Fantasy, but avoids the obvious tropes. He is reminiscent the magic realism movement from Latin America. That is what I see.

December 9th, 2013

I was talking to a friend about my recent Charles de Lint and me blog article. He said he did not really care Science Fiction and Fantasy. I compare de Lint to Kafka. His work is more Reminiscent, at least to me of Latin American Magical Realism or literary uses of Fantasy and/ or Science Fiction Element. Other than Kafka, Vonnegut, William S. Burroughs and Virginia Woolf have used similar elements without using many of the clich├ęs of genre. After a while I kinda felt pushy. More like a literary pusher. De Lint's work I feel is not like many of the typical Fantasy and Urban Fantasy authors out there. I would compare his work with that of Neil Gaiman it that aspect. Mind you their styles are very different. De Lint is more subtle and Gaiman has more whimsy to his works. Even though he does fantasy including Faeries and other fae folk his work seems more grounded and down to earth.

December 15th, 2013

I was talking to my Uncle Bob about how Portland has become Nerdvana. At first we thought that it was a recent thing (15 to 20 years). We realized Portland has always been geeky and nerdy. None of the Universities in the city are known for athletics, they are known for academics. My Uncle was part of the Portland Music scene in the Early to mid 80's as a professional drummer. He and his friends listened to Dr. Demento and watched Star Trek. Our climate lends itself to Indoor pursuits for 6 to 9 months a year. We are really passionate about those pursuits. We always have had a crafty side to this area; I remember this to visiting during the Holidays as a kid in the 70's and 80's. Portland's Craftiness is evident in that the Portland Saturday Market started in 1973. For the longest time, Channel 12 KPTV aired Star Trek and Perry Mason. In 1986, Mike Richardson started Dark Horse Comics. Even when I moved to the the Portland area in 1985 there were numerous comics shops. Like I said earlier it is not a new thing. It has been part of the fabric of this town.

December 21st, 2013

I am watching Hawaii Five-0 (the newer version) and a junkyard dog, a Rottweiler finds a corpse. I am reminded that most of the demonized dog breeds are ones I love. German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Pit Bulls (which covers American Staffordshire Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier and so on), Doberman Pinscher, Mastiffs, and Bull Mastiff have at one time or another been given a bad rap. The breeds are never a problem the bad owners are.

I was living at an Apartment complex that had a ban on Pit bulls. The manager who also managed a pet shop was trying to get us to by an American Staffordshire Terrier. I informed him that was one of the breeds referred to as Pit Bulls. I had to show him in my Atlas on Dog Breeds. For someone who was so into dogs I was surprised. I love these breeds they tend to be very loyal and protective.

Another story is when I was a Flagger for a utility company we had a woman come by with a huge Bull Mastiff. My co-workers said it was a big puppy and no concern. I laughed. He may be nice here out in the neighborhood, but I would not want to be coming onto his property without invitation. As a former Postal worker I have learned that dogs do not behave the same out and about as they do on their home turf. I am living with two dogs, but they are not mine. I have been a big dog person for most of my life. For 10 years I lived with just with cats. Right now I am not ready to have anyone dependent on me, human or critter. That may change.