Lights Out, Lights On

The blackout is over and it’s back to unusual here on RANDOMIZER9.COM.  While SOPA may be down for the count, it certainly hasn’t gone away and so we must stay on our guard to make sure it or some other misguided attempt to regulate the Internet never ever rears its ugly head again.  Stay informed, everybody, and a big ‘way to go’ to everyone that participated!

For the entirety of January 18, 2012, I am shutting down RANDOMIZER9.COM in protest against the Protect-IP Act (PIPA) and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). These are bills that are currently making their way through the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America.

While my blog is but one of millions that are fighting for your attention on the wild kingdom that is the Internet, I feel that if I can make my few visitors aware of what is going on, then I will have done my part.

My blog is currently a labor of love more than anything else, but I do hope to one day make a living from my other creative endeavors and so the topic of piracy is important to me. While the intentions behind those two proposed laws may have been good, their language is so broad and their methods are so draconian that they cannot be allowed to become law.

I don’t expect everyone reading this message to support this effort, but I hope that you will take the time to read up on the subject and decide for yourself whether we should let control of this crazy new wonderful thing called the Internet fall into the hands of corporations and the government.

Thanks for reading

–Eduardo “Randomizer9” Soliz

www.sopastrike.com

Tablet Thoughts

As I work on my Acer Iconia TAB A100 review and read the headlines coming out of the Consumer Electronics Show, I keep hearing about why Android tablets haven’t quite caught on. I keep hearing the same arguments: Android is fragmented, Android tablets are all the same, blah blah blah. What I don’t hear anyone talking about is how overpriced some of these Android tablets are.

Any tablet that costs $499 or more is not going to sell unless it is an iPad.  Period.

The iPad is the ‘gold standard’ in tablets right now, and the least expensive one costs $499.   If a competing product cannot be as good as an iPad then it has to cost less, or else that person will just buy an iPad.  Android is nice, but it is not as easy to use as iOS.

Keep in mind that I am referring to the average person when I make these statements.  Nerds such as myself are willing to live with a learning curve and some obfuscation.  We like figuring things out, we’re just funny that way.  The average person isn’t as patient, though, they want to turn a device on and be able to do things from the get-go.  That is why iOS is as successful as it is.  Granted, there is a lot that you can’t do with it, which is frustrating to nerds like myself, but the majority of people tend to not care about stuff like HDMI ports and memory card slots.

I think Amazon did two smart things with the Kindle Fire: first, they sold it for cheaper than the iPad, but more importantly, they didn’t make an iPad. The Fire is significantly smaller than an iPad, and doesn’t look like one when you start it up.  Sure, if you’re a nerd you can argue about how yes, its really Android under the hood and does mostly the same things as an iPad and all that, but to the average person it is different.

Sadly, the bargain prices for the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet are going to make it harder for other 7-inch tablets to gain any traction unless they drop in price as well, so it may not necessarily be a good thing for Android in general.  Then again, the functionality they leave out is fairly significant, so it may not necessarily be a bad thing, either.

20 Things I Noticed During Ikkicon VI

Since the last Ikkicon, I actually have helped run an event (two even, the Mezasu mini-cons) so my checklist of “things I have done at a con” is pretty darn close to complete.  This time, the band I drum for, named NeRiMa ねりま, was scheduled to play Saturday night, so Friday was pretty much a ‘free day.’  Because of my involvement with the event, I don’t feel right ‘reviewing’ it so without further ado, here’s another list of things I noticed:

  1. I am not going to bring up the drum thing. I am not going to bring up the drum thing. I am not going to bring up the drum thing.  I think the drum thing was our fault, anyway.
  2. Okay, the drum thing: I need to invest in an acoustic drum set…once I’m sure there is space for it in my apartment, I’m sure it’ll fit in my car, and I won’t get thrown out of my apartment from the noise…so yeah.
  3. So Band 1 plays before Band 2, but Band 2 does their sound check after Band 1 does theirs and immediately before Band 1 performs…granted, I’m fairly new to the whole “rock band” thing, but am I the only one that finds that weird?
  4. I’d heard there were three versions of the schedule floating around, which probably why nobody minded that we started playing late.
  5. I was a little distressed at seeing such a small crowd at first, but it turns out Safety was checking bags for alcohol at the door, so we waited and it slowly grew.
  6. I think I like playing on Friday better, because we can practice the night before and having the show constantly on my mind for most of the con took a little bit of the fun out of it.
  7. I had a fun time at the concert itself, it was also nice of them to remember the fog machines were there about 2/3 of the way through. :/
  8. I totally forgot to check out the game room, perhaps the memories of last year are way too fresh.
  9. I’m guessing a lot of folks got the Nintendo 3DS for Christmas.  Either that or System Settings is much more engaging than I remember.
  10. I finished 4 Streetpass panels during the event and almost finished Find Mii a second time, w00t!
  11. According to my 3DS’ pedometer, I averaged 6,000+ steps a day, and my legs feel like it today.
  12. Once again, no microwave in the room.  I guess if you can afford to stay at a place like the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center you aren’t going to be nuking popcorn and noodles for sustenance.
  13. Luckily, the venue was near the University of Texas, so there was plenty of pizza and burger jonts within walking distance.
  14. I love how the layout was prioritized: artists and dealers in the mezzanine, panels and some artists on the first floor, and con alley in steerage, er, I mean, the basement.  They aren’t the only ones to do this, BTW.
  15. The AT&T Executive yadda yadda is split in two between the hotel and the conference center, which is probably why there weren’t too many insane elevator wait times.  That, and it only has seven floors.
  16. I was afraid of that the venue was going to be too small for the number of attendees, but it didn’t seem to get too packed.
  17. I attended the My Little Pony panel to see if I could somehow finish the blog entry I’d been working on for the last two WEEKS. Mission Accomplished.
  18. In spite of my friend Chris’ best efforts, I was not tied down to a chair and forced to watch My Little Pony like the guy in “A Clockwork Orange.”  Jerk.
  19. What is it with badges?  Guest badges, even??  Once again I got a temp badge to start off, but they found the band’s real ones halfway through.
  20. I can’t claim this one (credit goes to my friend Justin of Nine Tails) but I have to include it: while looking at the Sunday schedule, a friend wondered “How come they never have Steampunk 102?”

For me, at least, Ikkicon VI was fun: a good-sized crowd showed up, the location was better in quite a few aspects, and our concert went well.  While there were a few wrinkles here and there, the problems that did come up got taken care of and a good time was had by all.

My Little Observation

Fluttershy: Seducer of the Innocent
Fluttershy: Seducer of the Innocent

Artwork courtesy of Chris Holm: check out his (mostly non-pony) art at DeviantArt or follow him on Facebook

I had a…shall we say, interesting conversation with some coworkers about the whole ‘brony’ phenomena at work the other day.  I started reading up on the subject upon learning that some of my friends had apparently ‘joined the herd.’

For the uninitiated, ‘bronies’ are male fans of the ‘My Little Pony Friendship is Magic’ animated TV series that are in their 20s and 30s.  While the show’s target audience is young girls, it is supposedly of such high quality that boatloads of grown men have become enamored with it.  The MLP fans’ obsession with the show and its characters has gotten to the point where they could easily be confused with Trekkies or Whovians or whatever it is extreme Star Wars fans are called.  Thus, we have the “bronies.”

As I talked about the bronies with my cube-neighbors (all guys, BTW) the reactions I received were all different: one coworker was amused, another found it to be mildly disturbing, and a third was all SERIOUSLY, DUDE?  Yeah, seriously, dude…there is no way anyone could make this up.

A quick disclaimer before I go any further:  This is about the fans of the show; I have never actually seen an entire episode of  it.  I have viewed some of the mashups and clips on YouTube, but I’m flying blind as far as the actual show itself is concerned.  Thus, I can’t comment on whether it is worthy of all the attention, but I can’t say that I am not surprised at the attention it is getting, either.  The show was developed by Lauren Faust, who has worked on some good ‘toons like Dexter’s Labratory and Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends.  Mrs. Faust was asked to ‘reboot’ MLP and took the opportunity to create a ‘girl’s show’ with more in-depth characters and settings.

I’m fairly indifferent toward the bronies myself.  If someone enjoys watching MLP, then good for them.  Whether it is reality TV, disco, or a cutesy kid’s show, people like what they like.  I don’t really plan on watching it anytime soon, but then again, I don’t watch much television these days.  The more obsessive fans (you know, like the ones we have in ANY fandom) make me do a Mr. Spock eyebrow raise, but for the most part, they’re harmless.

As a fan of animation, I find it encouraging whenever any animated work manages to capture a following so far outside of its intended audience.  Kids are smarter than we think, and media made for them does not necessarily have to be dumbed down.  As someone who enjoys animation, I know it can be something that isn’t easy to share with others, but watching a cartoon for girls and owning up to it?  On the internet? That takes some stones.

But the question remains: just why are these guys so attached to this show?  Is it out of a sense of irony? It is out of a need to hop onto the latest internet meme?  Or maybe, just maybe, could the show really be that good? All those factors are probably part of it, but I think that there may be something else going on too; something that didn’t occur to me until I attended a My Little Pony panel at Ikkicon VI this past New Year’s Eve weekend.

I’ll give you a moment to stop laughing.

I really wasn’t sure what to expect at the panel.  One friend even went as far as to tell me a horror story about a bad experience she’d had at an MLP panel, but I went nonetheless.  What I ended up seeing was pretty much the same thing I see at every fan panel: a bunch of folks getting together to share their love and appreciation towards a work of fiction.  The panel could have easily been about Star Trek, Star Wars, Harry Potter, or yes, even Twilight.

I noticed there was something different about the MLP panel, though.  Everybody (everypony?) seemed to be happy. There was a genuine air of happiness that I wasn’t used to experiencing at a fan convention, where things can (and often do) devolve into shouting matches regarding who the better Captain, Jedi, Sith, Doctor, or vampire is.

I started thinking that just maybe adults like the show because it is good.  Now, when I say ‘good’ I don’t mean ‘good’ in terms of quality, but ‘good’ in that it is a positive show.  There is so much cynicism and negativity in our entertainment today that just maybe these guys have had enough of it.

Maybe they want something more than so-called “reality TV” and the big egos it produces.  Maybe they want to go back to a time before television smashed through the fourth wall and is now unable to tell its audience a story without winking its eyes and nudging us with its elbow.  Maybe, just maybe, these bronies want to spend twenty-something minutes in a place where three’s company, or where everybody knows your name, or where loving parents have everything figured out by the time the credits roll.

But the apartment is no longer there, the bar closed down years ago, and the happy TV families have all moved away.

And so they spend those twenty-odd minutes in Equestria.