19 June 2017

Don't Patreon-ize Me (totes not begging)

Thank you for your Patreon-age.
Patreon made a big change to their platform, and it's getting a less-than favorable reaction. Their menu for both their desktop site and mobile app looks chunkier and geometrically harsher. Most notably, though, is their logo, which one Twitter user felt made it unrecognizable when compared to the original. 

I can understand his point of view, especially considering the logo looks less like a "P" and more like a lower-case "r". If I didn't know any better, I would have thought it was a new logo for ReasonTV. Then again, even before the rebranding, the Patreon logo tended to have trouble standing out, blending right in with the Google+ tile or even Blogger's icon. They're both reddish-orange squares with white lines in them. There would be times when I would click on a social link for what I thought was Patreon and found it to be a Blogger page. 

Besides, let's face it, more people have heard of Patreon than Reason (and I say that as a fan of ReasonTV). 

As for the new logo, it's certainly striking. White backgrounds tend to be a bit of a no-no in logos unless the line-work is strong (read: dark) so it can be used as a watermark or stamped onto simple stationary. Despite that, I like how the logo looks a little like crate paper with its muted, seemingly-translucent color scheme, especially that muted red-orange dot. It may not quite pop from the white the way a deeper red would (i.e., Japan's flag), but it's not lost in the great pale sea, either. The washed-out navy blue of the P's back also helps ground the whole design and helps center your eyes. Also, the more I look at it, the less I see that lower-case "r" and the more I see a stylized "P". That's the odd thing about rebranding; you can get used to almost anything. 
Many graphic designers will tell you about brand images that simply shouldn't work; Google, eBay, Yahoo, Apple's old rainbow logo, and MTV to name a few, yet with a handful of exceptions, they persist and endure. They don't necessarily rewrite any typography or design rules, but they earn their place and show that sometimes breaking the rules is how you stand out and get an edge (the iconoclast). DeviantART decided to forego having its initials in its icon and instead went a more abstract route, like if Matisse made traffic signs. It caused a stir, but down the road, it's as if it never happened, and I certainly haven't heard of anyone missing the "DA" hemisphere of old. ---Actually, I just now had the logo explained to me as the "mid-section" of a "d" sidling up to an "A" and now I feel a bit silly. 

Then again, let's face it, Seattle's Best Coffee still looks like it's advertising a blood drive, and SyFy is as stupid a name now as it was when it was announced, I don't care how good The Expanse is supposed to be. 

The point is that for all the testing and research and time invested into creating a new identity for a corporate entity, no one can afford a sharp turn or backpedal to begin with, and there is truly no good way of discerning how well a new logo will go over with audiences. People generally don't like change, and while some criticisms are more valid than others, events reveal that people can get used to an idea they were once opposed to. In the end, most of us likely weren't involved in the decision and it's not going to affect how we spend our money, so we'll either get on with our lives and carry on or we'll decide this new direction, however superficial, isn't worth our business.

Speaking of money and business....

I've debated setting up a creator's Patreon for myself. I once talked at great length about why I don't take commissions, and while I'm not motivated by money in my artwork (no artist is, it's just enthusiasm can't pay bills), I am grateful that people out there enjoy and appreciate what I do. As such, it's only fair that I offer people as many means of "supporting the cause" as possible, whether that's the share buttons on my journal pages or my DevaintART gallery or my Thingiverse profile, to more, er, direct means such as the Ko-Fi links both here and on my Twitter, the "tip designer" button on Thingiverse, my Paypal links I scatter in a few different places, and my Amazon wishlist (located in the sidebar). I've gotten a few tips here and there, and I even get asked about commissions (I'm not above making exceptions, especially to "support a cause" as it were). I've also gotten comments and other feedback such as dis/likes, up/down votes, hearts, stars, clovers and blue moons, pots of gold and rainbows, and me red ba--sorry. I'm grateful for it all and never want anyone to be shy about what they have to say about what I say and do (provided the freedom goes both ways, that's only fair). 
Going back to Patreon, what I do doesn't quite lend itself to much of a consistent output, and I don't feel like comparing the time and effort spent writing a journal entry or movie review with a painting or a comic. Thirty movie reviews in a month versus 10 digital paintings in the same month is not a quantification I feel like justifying to an audience, and I don't think you should have to entertain that concept either. As much as I like the "set and forget" nature of Patreon, even a small reward tier would simply feel like too much of an onus for me to place on someone. Maybe if I ever get to working on a regular webcomic I can commit to or I start doing livestreaming of my painting (which may happen as soon as Inktober of this year), then I'll consider it. 

Until then, thank you for visiting my page. 

18 June 2017

Four Movies

I'd been writing this review for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 wherein I criticize the story for the changes it makes to Starlord's origin. While I still stand by that criticism, its weight was gradually diminished the more research I did into the GotG's lore. Turns out I knew even less than I did about just how malleable this series is and the myriad ways Marvel keeps pounding it into different shapes in a desperate bid for appeal. Some comics blog out there once referred to Guardians as something along the lines of, "A series comic fans desperately want to pretend to love." that's not to say it's bad, just that it never seems to have any lasting appeal. The way the original publication played out was it ran for a few issues, got cancelled, the characters made cameos in other books, the series was revived, cancelled again, and all the while keeping a swiftly revolving door on their roster worse than the X-Men ever got. Silver Sable had the same problem; she seemed stupidly popular with fans and demand for a standalone series would be through the roof, only for the sales figures to dig a well in the basement. Anyway, as for the Guardians and my attempt at reviewing their newest incarnation, I found that the version I knew was so different from any other that complaining about continuity was more than a little futile. As I said, though, I still stand by most of the criticisms I leveled at it. I get that changes get made in adaptations. I don't mind that at all. What I take issue with is when the change is made for the sake of broad appeal and marketability rather than for the sake of fitting the story into a new medium. It's like Watchmen; I get why fans of the book were upset about the ending being changed, but for my money, I think the ending works better in the case of the film. It keeps the story on track and doesn't feel like a mad dash add-on. So, as much as you didn't need me to tell you by now, this many weeks after box office records were shattered, Volume 2 was perfectly adequate as another entry in the Marvel cinematic universe. Also, water is wet. 

The week following Guardians, I went to see King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. I had no intention of seeing it thanks mostly to a painfully humdrum trailer. My roommate, however, a fan of all things Arthurian and fantastic, couldn't wait. For as much of a renaissance as the fantasy genre is getting in Hollywood, it's still fairly slim cinematic pickings compared to sci-fi and superheroes, especially if you venture outside of anything with Peter Jackson's name on it. Some say that's because fantasy has found a good enough home on television with the likes of Game of Thrones and Vikings. Anyway, my expectations were very low for the movie, to the point I genuinely expected to nap my way through the entire thing. I also thought, "hey, maybe it'll be good for a laugh." Two things happened in the first ten minutes, however, that threw the nap in the fire along with those low expectations. First was Eric Bana scaling and toppling a mountain-sized war elephant while sporting glowing armor and a flaming sword. Okay, I thought, you've got my attention. Second was seeing Guy Ritchie in the credits as director. All right, I thought, what have you got for me? Admittedly, the steam starts letting out immediately thereafter, but it's a slow enough burn that by the time the duel with NOT-Frank Frazetta's Death Dealer came around, I can safely say I was never truly bored. I was legitimately invested despite some horrific cliches and tropes. While I'm not pretending it's a perfect film or even a hidden gem, but it was a pleasant surprise, which is almost as good. It reminded me a lot of Solomon Kane, which had similar qualities. A few genuinely cool moments of visual artistry wrapped up in an overall mediocre package of safe, bland design and extremely poor marketing. Seriously, what is it with trailers underselling movies these days? The trailer for Logan made it look like the entire film would be set at that one location (the repurposed water tower in the desert) and padded with a lot of Sergio Leone-styled long stares over the landscape, instead of what we got. As for Arthur, which has unfortunately joined a list of box office flops, I genuinely recommend it. If you're a fan of Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes films, this won't satisfy you like a proper third entry in that series (Hound of the Baskervilles, maybe?) but you'll be able to fill up your Guy Ritchie witty banter-riddled irreverent action movie bingo card well enough. 

Last week, I did something I hadn't done in years: a twofer movie day. The first time I did that was back in 2002, seeing the first Sam Raimi Spider-man film the same day as Attack of the Clones. The second time was in 2011, the films being Super 8 and Green Lantern

The first was Wonder Woman, for which all the world was waiting. It was good. I know that's not very in-depth, but that's the kind of movie it was. It did a lot of things right and while it didn't quite excel at most of them, it never failed in any regard. It delivered what it promised and the only true complaint I had besides some pacing issues in the beginning and the middle was the child playing young Diana. Of course, that's not being fair, they did the best they could with what they had and I'm sure she was the best pick, but if we never hear from that kid again (I'm not even sure we "heard" from her this time around; I'll be surprised if she's not dubbed), I won't be surprised and certainly wish her well in whatever she pursues. As for Gal Godot, I take back my doubts about her handling the role. I'd already been proven mostly wrong by Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, but this confirmed it. 

After that, and over a plate of some lovely battered chicken fingers at a sports bar, we got our tickets to The Mummy. My reaction to it is about the same as Wonder Woman, but I have to mention Iron Man 2 as part of my criticism. Iron Man 2 is a decent Marvel movie (water is still wet) except when it grinds its own story to a screeching halt and spends what feels like a full half-hour telling how awesome the Avengers movie is going to be. The Mummy isn't quite so clumsy, but if I didn't know that Universal was trying to have its own cinematic universe (which they kind of started back in the day with Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman and even their own early Mummy movies) it would have caught me off guard. At around the halfway mark, Tom Cruise gets taken through a room with cryptid specimens in jars, including what appears to be a Lagoon creature's arm in a jar, and the skull of a vampire (also in a jar of alcohol, which doesn't make sense unless it stops it from dissolving in sunlig... you know what, it's fine, forget it). To top it off, Russell Crowe introduces himself as Dr. Jekyll, and the reference doesn't stop at the name. Luckily, this doesn't linger or feel like an intrusion on the story, so I forgive it. I do wonder, however, if they've planned this out that far ahead. I mean, Dracula: Untold is arguably the first inkling of Universal trying to snag a piece of the Marvel pie, but those hints have been snubbed in favor of this new appetizer. What's to say we won't get a third introduction with the added note, "No, this one's the start, this one for sure. This time we mean it!"? The Bride of Frankenstein isn't even slate for release until 2019. That's a ways off given how often new Marvel films get released. If you read anything by Sandy Collora about his involvement in a Black Lagoon movie, you'll find yourself even less eager to see how this Dark Universe plans to dazzle us. Should we even mention that Bencio Del Toro remake of  the Wolfman getting "rebooted"? 

17 June 2017

No Like Pinterest

For it is always "likes"

Recently, in a move akin to Twitter trading stars for hearts, Pinterest has decided to remove the "like" option from their service. It should be said that I truly appreciate how Pinterest went about this phase-out, much as it surprised me when I logged in a few days ago. There are items I find on Pinterest that I... well, like, but don't fall into any categories I've made boards for, as vague as some of them may be. I used "likes" as a kind of miscellaneous catch-all for this. It was also a nice option for giving feedback, especially on crafts; certain crafts may not be my bag, but that doesn't mean I can't appreciate the workmanship and dedication that goes into some of these creations. 

Look at it this way, imagine if YouTube only let you create playlists for things. You'd inevitably have a playlist called "favorites" or "likes" or some other miscellaneous term. These are videos that you like, but not enough to add to a playlist you run in the background while cooking dinner or working out. 
A food sculpture can be very impressive, but does it belong on a board devoted to recipes? Does a button-sewing tutorial belong on a board devoted to full outfits and fashion trends? Better question, how many more boards should I have to make before eventually I simply give up and make a "miscellaneous" board that serves the same purpose as "like"? 
In fact, that's exactly what Pinterest did. They took all my "likes" and made a whole new board for them. I can go through and move a few to more appropriate boards, or merely leave it as is, though I can't add any new pins to it since that would defeat the purpose of the move. It's a fun idea, this kind of "legacy" feature. 
As of right now, I've got something like 2,000 pins in this "like" board. I went through a handful today just to see how smooth the editing options were, and was fairly impressed. However, I won't be conducting any sort of mass exodus to close out the board, and I'm glad Pinterest isn't forcing my hand to do so. That puts them leagues above Digg when they royally dropped the ball on a server malfunction a few years back. They essentially lost my account, said they were trying to get it back, suggested I make a new one, then said if I made a new one there'd be no way to recover the old one or at least merge it with the new one. If that sounds ridiculous, I'm doing them a favor with that description, because I didn't learn about those parts in that order and from one person. 

Take this as free advice to anyone out there crazy enough to create a new social media platform: Don't be Digg, be Pinterest. People may only be renting space on your servers, but remember that you WANT them to stay and continue to rent space on your servers. I'm still with Pinterest. I will never go back to Digg

Funnily enough, I'm surprised there don't appear to be any memes devoted to Pinterest's recently-added "tried it" button being ticked on things that no one could possibly have tried. I suppose there's some low-hanging fruit no one is that bored to humor.