Ken Akamatsu releases a new Manga!

UQ Holder

Ken Akamatsu, creator of Love Hina and Negima! has just released a new manga called UQ Holder! which is basically Negima!: The Next Generation. It takes place in the Negima! setting about 10 years after the world became aware of the existence of magic and centers around Negi’s grandson who has been living a sheltered country life and must now go out into the real (future) world.

Having read the first 80-page “chapter” of the story, I have to say that I don’t actually like it that much. It’s really typical, and while I thought I’d like the tie-ins with Negima! (which I liked overall) I found they weighed the story down more than boosted it. Negima! had a very whimsical and organic feel to it, but this story feels very forced and like Akamatsu is trying too hard to harness both the Negima! setting and fan base and start something new at the same time. It’s hard to explain without spoiling it, so you’ll just have to check it out and make your own decisions.

I will say that it was very clear during Negima! that Akamatsu was a guy doing a romantic comedy/harem book that desperately wanted to be doing a fantasy-action book instead. At least this time he’s doing what he wants, but ironically, not having the character-driven romantic-comedy story as a base might turn out to be this story’s downfall. He just doesn’t seem to be very good at doing “real” shonen-type battle stories without them devolving into clichés.

As a side-note, Negima! ends without us knowing who Negi finally marries (likely the editors wouldn’t let him pick since it might hurt future collection sales), but to those paying attention this story now more or less tells us the answer with a 50% chance of being correct. (Which might not seem certain, but when you consider the odds were formally about 1 in 30, that’s a pretty big jump!)


Heroes of IP Theft

A slightly amusing and sad situation has popped up surrounding Syfy’s new series Heroes of Cosplay (see above trailer), mostly due to a misunderstanding of copyright law on the parts of several parties.

It seems that the show contains numerous still shots of the cosplayers mixed in with the video, and this is a bit of an issue since those shots are legally owned by the photographers of those shots, who were neither paid nor credited for them. The producers of the show acquired these shots from the cosplayers, who it seems were under the mistaken assumption that because they’re the stars of the pictures they have co-ownership rights. However, unless releases are specificically signed saying so, or the pictures are commissioned and paid for by the cosplayers, this isn’t true at all.

So, the owners of at least one set of pictures are demanding payment from the show’s producers, who are reasonably freaking out. According to the linked article, they’re trying to blame the cosplayers, but the cosplayers did give them the contact information for the photographers in question as well, it was the producer’s fault for not actually following up on things.

I said I find this sad and amusing. It’s sad because with a little bit of homework and effort, this whole mess could have been avoided. (I see someone getting fired in the near future…) It’s amusing because Cosplay itself is a giant exercise in intellectual property theft, and technically the rights holders to the original characters being cosplayed would be within their rights to demand similar payments from not just Syfy, but also the cosplayers and the photographers (should these photographers actually get the money they’re demanding). Anyone making money from their intellectual property should be giving them a cut, and all these people are. Luckily the rights holders seem to still see this as free PR, so they’re letting it slide- for now.

It’s also amusing because apparently cosplayers regularly get mad about the idea of photographers selling images of them without giving them some payment, but don’t seem to feel the need to pay the original IP owners a penny for the property they’re borrowing themselves.

Then again, if you read the comments under that article, it seems that the one thing most people seem to agree on is that the photographer has no rights to demand payment for their works, and that the corporations and cosplayers do. Sigh.


Ultra-Cheap Cellphone Stabilizer Ideas

A video I made to try to help beginners who are trying to get better footage from their cellphone cameras. Also my first try at actually making a Youtube video, and using Cyberlink Powerdirector 11, which I found very easy and intuitive to use. The whole process turned out to be pretty fun! (If time consuming!)


Nero Wolfe

Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe

Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe

It’s so easy in life to stop exploring, especially as you get older. You think “if it’s really good, I would have checked it out by now” and just stick with the things you know instead of poking around looking at new things.

This is one of the reasons I try to constantly challenge myself with new projects that will force me to develop new skills and learn about stuff that I hadn’t really looked into before. For example, right now I am engrossed in working on a murder mystery novel, so I’ve been spending the last few months immersing myself in the detective genre. I’ve been reading, watching and listening to detective stories of all kinds as a way to give myself a crash-course in the field. While my mother and wife both adore mystery stories, they’ve always been something I could take or leave, so I never studied them too closely or made a real survey of the genre before now.

One name that I’ve heard for most of my life was Nero Wolfe, but since the crime novel wasn’t my thing, I pretty much ignored this name that kept popped up over and over again. Again, I figured if he was really that big a deal or that good, I’ve have come nose to nose with him at some point before now.

Boy, was I wrong.

Created by author Rex Stout in 1934 for a series of novels, Nero Wolfe is likely the fattest, laziest and most unlikable detective you’ll find. The trick is, he’s also utterly brilliant, and when circumstances force him to use that brilliance to solve cases, there are few who can escape his grasp. His adventures are actually told by his personal secretary, Archie Goodwin, who does all the actual legwork in Nero’s cases (Nero’s too lazy to leave his home) and feeds all the information back to his boss to use  to solve the cases. Archie is everything Nero is not- athletic, charming, and with a strong sense of justice, which he uses to drag his boss into cases.

The real charm of these stories is the interaction between these two men, whose relationship is almost adversarial, but who at heart have a great deal of respect and admiration for each other. It’s this interaction which made me fall in love with Nero and Archie, especially when acted out by Sydney Greenstreet and Harry Bartell in the radio drama series called The New Adventures of Nero Wolfe from 1950-1951.

Two stories I highly recommend giving a listen to are Room 304, which has amazing dialogue, and Calculated Risk, which is a nice little thriller. They’re about 28 minutes each, and I promise you they’re 28 minutes you won’t regret! Give them a listen, and perhaps you’ll become a fan too!


D.I.Y.O.F.S. Culture

D.I.Y.O.F.S. Culture

(Warning! Incoming rant! Warning! Explicit Language!)

So yesterday, the new 12th Doctor Who was revealed. A Scotsman named Peter Capaldi will replace Matt Smith, and by all rights Capaldi is a fine actor who will do credit to the job. However, this being the internet, what almost immediately followed was a cascade of whining.

He’s too old!

He’s too male!

He’s too white!

And infinite variations of the above.

To this, I have two responses. One, fuck you. He’s fine, and you’ll probably think he’s the greatest thing since sliced bread after you’ve gotten used to him. Stop killing pixels for your self-indulgent pointless chatter.

Two, if you want to see your socio-ethnic-cultural group of choice become The Doctor- Do It Your Own Fucking Self! Make your own Stories, Videos, Movies, Comics, Audio Dramas, or whatever else, with the Doctor of your choice and stop being a lazy fucking consumer who expects to have anything they want handed to them.

You live in an amazing age, when the ability to produce quality media of all kinds, and get it out to literally the world, can be done at almost no cost. This wasn’t true even 20 years ago, and a lot of people still act like it’s the pre-internet age, but right now the only thing stopping you from making your dreams into reality and having your voice heard is YOU.

Now, you might whine- What do I know? I’m just some guy mouthing off on a blog, right? What have I done?

The answer is- plenty!

In 2006, I decided I wanted to create a full-cast Audio Drama Podcast (Audio Drama = Radio Plays in the old days.) because I wasn’t hearing the kind of shows I wanted to hear and I thought it would be cool. But, I had a few problems…

  • I had almost no money.
  • I had no microphone.
  • I only had one aging laptop.
  • I had no production software.
  • I had no music and no musical talent.
  • I had no sound effects.
  • I had no idea how do make or post a Podcast.
  • I had written exactly one script in my entire life.
  • I had no contacts or connections online that could help me.
  • Very few people had done this kind of thing at that time.
  • I was sitting in the middle of Taipei, Taiwan. On the other side of the planet from all my friends and personal resources. (And people who spoke English.)
  • My job took about 60 hours a week of my time.

All I had was a desire, a will to do it, and my own creativity.

  • I studied scriptwriting and learned how to do it properly.
  • I found a cheap iRiver MP3 player with a decent Mic on it.
  • I found free audio editing software like Audacity.
  • I found sites with Creative Commons Music and Sound Effects that others would let me use for free.
  • I made contacts within the internet audio production and audio drama community.
  • I found the Voice Acting Alliance forum where amateur voice actors would do recordings over the internet for free.
  • I taught myself audio engineering.
  • I learned how to work with and manage actors from across the planet.
  • I taught myself how RSS worked and how to get a podcast out. (Now it’s super-simple, but then it was a little more tricky)

And I produced my first show, and it was total shit!

Then I produced my second one, and it was better.

In the end, between 2006-2011 Kung Fu Action Theatre would go on to produce 47 shows, averaging 20-25 minutes each, and has had around 400,000 downloads to date. I’ve made contacts, friends and fans. I’ve become part of many online communities. I developed skills I never thought I’d have and it’s helped me both personally and professionally.

And, I’ve made the shows I wanted to hear.

I didn’t whine online and ask someone else to change the world for me, I did it myself and then used the incredible tools this modern age offers to get my stuff out there. I Did It My Own Fucking Self, and it’s a badge of honor I’ll wear for the rest of my life.

So, in a time when you can make HD movies with a cell phone, when Youtube lets you reach millions of viewers (and get a better viewership than some TV stations!), when the software to produce and edit audio and video is free, when the knowledge to do anything you want is just a Google search away, and when you can get people to help you just by posting on Reddit- I have no sympathy for those who want to sit there and whine instead of trying to DO something and put their effort where their mouth is.

You want the world to be different? You think we need an epic tale of a Mixed-Race Lesbian Mormon Vampire Hunter? A Transgender Action Hero? A Native American Superspy? A female Doctor Who?

Do It Your Own Fucking Self.

You have more power and ability to change the world than anyone had had in the history of mankind. So stop whining in comments, get off your lazy ass, and use it!