Monthly Archives: November 2016

Franchises Versus Stand-Alone

I feel like there are a lot of people down on franchises, and I understand, because we are living in a world of franchises. Star Wars, Star Trek, Harry Potter, Marvel, and so much more. More and more we are getting stories that just keep coming back over and over again.

Now some people feel that this repetitive pattern feels like just a money grab and that might be partially true, but there is a reason that people keep coming back. At the same time I can appreciate that a stand-alone story is something that is enduring and fleeting at the same time. Once you see it once you re-watch that story over and over to just get more out of it, but it stands alone with nothing else to go into.

There is something great about an immersive world that you get to see from different angles, but there is also something wonderful about a story that has a beginning and an end.

Franchises

There is a reason that we love franchises, because stepping back into a world that we know can be like coming home again. With a franchise it is not about one story, but a whole world that is built for us to step in to. Now some of what we love is the characters, but it is not just about a small group of main characters. All the characters have a depth and it is often about an ensemble and not just one person. One of the things about getting new stories in a franchise is that we know what we are getting into and have an idea of what to expect. There is something comforting about that expectation.

Now this does not mean that the higher-ups might not use the love for the franchise to try and get more money. The splitting of stories into two parts can sometimes feel as though they are trying to get more money instead of making the better story. Then there are the times that it feels like a character was added just because of the potential for merchandising. It is an interesting balance because we want more from these worlds and the fact is that the money earned by these known worlds help to allow some more creative options to flourish.

Stand Alone

A good stand-alone movie can be a beautiful thing. It is something that can stand apart from other things that you have seen and this one story can be a fleeting moment that allows you to experience new emotions, thoughts, ideas, and visuals. At the same time once it is over, it is done – there is no more to explore. It is a moment that lives on, but it is just in that moment that you get to experience it. You can imagine other thoughts of what might have happened, but in the end the story is meant to begin and end. We are not meant to know what happens before or what happens afterward, it exists as a moment that can take a deeper look at life and ourselves.

Now a stand-alone story that digs deep is not always the easiest thing to watch and can sometimes leave us feeling a little uncomfortable. Also not knowing what you are going to get means that you are taking a risk by going to the movie that you are going to watch something that does not get us anywhere. The other piece is that a story that just begins and ends can leave us wanting more, but there is no more for it to give.

Conclusion

There is a reason that generally the franchises have been major box office hits and that is not to say that there are not some amazing movies made in franchises. At the same time it is great to see a story unfold and be done. There is something beautiful about a story that exists in just that moment.

At the same time there is nothing inherently good or bad about either way they are just different. What do you think?

Navigating our Data Caps

Dang it, data caps.

That’s where I want to start. We have been dealing with a data cap with our cable broadband provider for years. They used to have unlimited with bundles, but that even has gone away – and with that, over time, has gone our home phone and, eventually, our cable. We’ve chronicled some of these decisions over time as they’ve happened.

As we moved into the disconnected world, watching all our media through streaming services and apps, we’ve really watched our data use. It seemed like the thing to do. Trying to figure out what a normal data amount was, what the right plan for us would be. The thing is, the plan options were 150GB a month, or else then doubled to 300GB. We came to find that our monthly use was roughly 170GB a month, so with the option to add more data in 10GB chunks, it was cheaper to do that than to double our plan.

Now, with that, it still often meant dialing back our use a bit later in the month. Skipping updating devices, maybe tending towards video games or other options instead of watching shows, or DVDs over streaming a movie. Leaving our phones on data instead of WiFi.

Unfortunately, this also meant that there were things we’ve never gotten to download at all… Backups of things, whole seasons of shows we’ve bought on iTunes and never downloaded… There’s a new Mac operating system I haven’t even really thought about updating to…

Last month, our provider increased their speeds and increased their data caps. Yay! Problem solved, we thought. Our same priced plan increased to 250GB a month, and several times the speed. Life seemed good.

However, we didn’t really increase our use much. Our normal sort of start-of-month catch-up on updates we were putting off from the month before… But really, like for streaming things, we don’t have much more time in our months anyway to do more. Plus, we can see the data use by day, so…

Yeah, why was it exactly that our data use increased pretty much completely proportionally to the increase in data?

All of a sudden we hit the 250, and had to add more data. The more data to add is now the same price for 25GB, but still… How did this happen?

We’re guessing. Since we moved from Hulu to watching on the apps for the various channels (which aren’t account based and don’t really have much in the way of “settings”), maybe these apps are set up to stream the highest quality they can. Indeed, maybe most of our apps work like that, and give us the highest definition possible by utilizing our maximum speed. Maybe it’s all a big scam. We don’t know, and at this point, we’ve decided we don’t care.

I understand, we’re lucky. We’re fighting awful data caps, but we live in a place where we have an alternative. What was once the dial up company has higher speed Internet coming through the phone lines, and their competitive difference is that they have unlimited data. So for the same price a month base, we can have unlimited. Their speed is not as high, but honestly, we probably don’t need it to be.

After several phone calls, using their site so many times their Captcha was starting to treat me like a robot, and a bunch of emails… I think I’m expecting a call from a tech to schedule a time to come get us set up? I feel like they have a bunch of artificial barriers I’ve been having to fight to get their service, so it’s a testament to how important unlimited data is these days that we’re still trying to do this. I will say, their customer service folks have been good to work with.

Data is just such a big part of how things work these days, and things are happening that seem to assume an unlimited data environment. Apps are updated by downloading the whole app again and replacing it wholesale. Social media tries to auto-play videos. The best television is on the streaming services. Computers and cell phones are a big part of life, or work. All the talk about fake news has gotten to the stats that a large percentage of Americans (and maybe others in the world?) get their news from social media.

Hopefully this works out for us, and we’ll have unlimited Internet soon! Then we’ll start this great glut of data as we catch up on things we’ve never downloaded…

Buy those Image Comics!

It’s Cyber Monday, and that means deals online for stuff. So much of it is appliances and electronics and what have you, from what Holly and I were seeing… but then, there’s some places where there are some great deals going on. One that we jumped on was the Image Comics sale on ComiXology (which ends today!).

Image Comics is more of a publishing house than the big two – DC and Marvel. The creators maintain the rights to their characters and stories, as you can read about on their Submissions page. Some great comics are published by Image, though the flagship right now might be Saga (it’s certainly the featured comic for the sale). Or as Jonathan Hickman put it,

https://twitter.com/JHickman/status/737680758832267264

In fact, my sales pitch is okay… but let’s look back at Hickman’s:

https://twitter.com/JHickman/status/734851942497853441

https://twitter.com/JHickman/status/734852197545091073

https://twitter.com/JHickman/status/734852434745556993

https://twitter.com/JHickman/status/734855995743186944

I was over scanning through his tweets wondering what he was up to (a series written and drawn by Hickman called Frontier being my answer), after his wonderful Marvel-universe-ending run from Fantastic Four through Secret Wars, all of which I’ve blogged on before

https://twitter.com/JHickman/status/703318313653239808

He’s currently all about his Image comics, with East of West being my favorite of those (and prophetic for our times). Picked up what I was missing there in the sale, as well as the whole of Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction (author of Hawkeye) and some other stuff. Expect some comics blogging here soon!

As to Hickman’s point about creators not wanting to do their most creative work with DC or Marvel… it does make sense. And it also actually makes some sense thinking back to Hickman’s work on Avengers: he introduced new versions of a number of pre-existing characters, like Starbrand, Hyperion, Captain Universe, Smasher… There are ways to be creative while not creating much new IP.

https://twitter.com/JHickman/status/733844134088343552

So if you’re looking for something new in comics, if you’re looking for a story that’s not superheroes, or something unexpected, or something in a favorite genre, or something else by that writer you liked or that artist you liked… go check out the Image Comics sale!

Audio

Comparative Opinions: Representation in Video Games – Episode 22

Welcome to the Comparative Opinions podcast! This week, on the heels of hearing such positive things about the game Dishonored 2, hosts David and Holly talk a bit about representation in video games, how it’s improving, why it’s important, and why it’s important to celebrate that it’s improving. They are also less than enthusiastic about the upcoming release of Final Fantasy XV.

Comparative Opinions is a weekly half-hour-ish podcast hosted on ComparativeGeeks.com. Subscribe for new episodes every Sunday!

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Music is by Scott Gratton: http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Scott_Gratton/Intros_and_Outros

How Are They Going to Pull Off… The Harry Potter Universe Prequels

Holly and I went to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and we’ll probably be podcasting on it soon (statute of limitations and all…), but I thought I would muse for a moment on the fact that this is the beginning of a five movie franchise. I’ve written one of these sorts of posts before, and hope to continue them. So what about this series?

I’ll try to avoid spoilers! But a few things to be said first. This movie was based on a character who was known only by name in the Harry Potter books – the in-universe author of the book “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.” That book is a textbook used in the magical creatures class that Hagrid teaches. So this film is a way to go back and see this fictional author, Newt Scamander, in his element with all kinds of cool magical beasts. Which seems great as a one-off book.

Also to note, this movie is set in the earlier part of the 20th century, during the wizarding war centered around Grindelwald. So there’s plenty of unexplored/unexplained storytelling to explore there – but as far as we know from the Harry Potter books, it’s not like Newt Scamander’s name comes up as the hero of that war.

Alright, with those elements out of the way, let’s talk about what I might do with the films, and then briefly discuss some of the current rumors and talk!

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