W+E4DM Web Feature Portfolio Part 4 – Junglist Out

This is part 4 of my Web Feature Portfolio for Writing and Editing for Digital Media. My articles are for ‘the Australian online magazine of culture and the popular arts’, The Enthusiast. My fourth and final article is a feature for their ‘TV’ category.

When casual fans tuned in to ABC’s Good Game several weeks ago, they may have been a little confused. The video game programme’s co-founder and co-host, Junglist (Jeremy Ray), was gone. In his place was a new host, Hex (Stephanie Bendixsen). It was only at the episode’s end that a quick farewell was given to Junglist, without further explanation. Casual fans may have been somewhat perturbed and puzzled by Junglist’s abrupt mid-season disappearance. But for the hardcore Good Game fans, an uproar had already begun.

Three days before the show aired, the decision was announced via an impersonal press release on the Good Game forums, followed by numerous posts back and forth, and finally a slightly more personal follow-up announcement nearly a week later. The lack of openness was galling enough, considering this is a show tagged as being “by gamers, for gamers”. But then Junglist commented on the forums that lies were circulating, only part of the story was being told, and in fact, his axing was forced on him from above, in a stated effort to gain “mass appeal” through a female presenter. Apparently, Junglist had also been contesting the lack of time allotted for reviewing games, or had ‘performance issues’, depending on who you listen to.

The story spread, with articles from gaming websites, mainstream commercial media and the ABC itself. Everyone had their side of the story (as far as possible within confidentiality agreements) and fans voiced their opinions at every opportunity. Amid the secrecy, speculation and internet chatter, the truth is elusive. Of course, a website was also created to redress the problem, or just provide a gathering place of support. In the end, the main issue is that ABC management made another bungle in their handling of this and they neglected their established fanbase. A familiar name shares the blame: Head of Arts and Entertainment, Amanda Duthie, the same woman dumped as Head of Comedy after she gave that Chaser sketch the green light.

Still, the ire has died down somewhat. Hex has been on for three weeks and after a bumpy start, it looks like there may be hope for the show yet. It’s just a shame they chose two ‘casual’ gamers, and removed the differing perspective of an established ‘hardcore’ gamer. This week marked the first time Hex and Bajo even had a significant disagreement about a game; even they felt it was noticeable enough to point out. Bajo and Hex would have been perfect for the upcoming children’s version of the programme, Good Game: SP on ABC3, with Junglist and Bajo remaining for the original and its subsequent increase in ‘mature’ content. Instead, we’ll have to wait and see how it all progresses, and whether ABC has learnt their lesson and will listen to the show’s fans, or at least talk openly with them, before any other drastic decisions are made.

Still, the show is worth watching. Whether you’re a casual gamer, semi-fanatic, or even a non-gamer, there’s plenty to keep you interested. Bajo and Hex even live-tweet the show as it airs every week on ABC2. For anyone who wants an idea of the show, a fond reminder of things past, or, just maybe, a sample of the madcap antics and nerdy enthusiasm that the show could reach again soon, there’s this lovingly made video montage: a tribute to Junglist and the show he helped to create.

Final words (for now)

Well, besides the pending Part 4 of my Web Portfolio, this is the last thing I’ll be putting up on this blog. But not forever.

Although it was undertaken as an assignment for my Writing and Editing for Digital Media class, I’ve taken a bit of a shine to working on this blog. Once I’ve finished my other assignments, had a bit of a break and received marks that confirm I indeed will qualify for graduation, I’ll be back. The focus of the blog might be a bit more casual, maybe a bit more serious, experimental, diverse, random, focused, who knows! I have a few ideas, but by the new year, I’ll be trying my hand at blogging here anew.

Before then, here’s a list of eight comments, thoughts, musings and things I’ve learned through the W+E4DM class and through my my blog so far:

• I’ve really enjoyed reading a diversity of blogging I otherwise might not have read, on topics from Facebook to fashion to kung fu. It’s great to read things outside my usual bubble of activity. If anyone in my class keeps blogging, I’ll keep reading and commenting.

• Blogging is pretty fun and addictive. I didn’t realise what a sad little thrill it would be to check out my blog stats thingo every day. People visited! People linked to my blog! People clicked my links! People searched for ‘peter bakowski blog’ and found mine instead! (it’s here btw). And best of all is when people read and comment and it seems like they’ve genuinely engaged with what I’ve written, even if it’s just in a small way. Or when your blog opens up opportunities to interact with people you’ve only briefly met, people you’d only heard of, or even total strangers. I didn’t think this blog would have an audience outside the class, let alone get visits from other acquaintances, established writers or a random dude from Copenhagen! All of this kind of stuff can be great motivation.

• The areas of writing, editing and publishing are changing alongside emerging digital media and technology. I’m keen to continue being involved in all of this, because there’s a lot of possibilities when everything is in a state of transition, uncertainty and experimentation. And I’m interested to see what role the internet and other related technologies will play in the ever-more unpredictable future of the planet and its inhabitants.

• Hardly anyone on the internet seems to pay much attention to copyright and I don’t really blame them. But I figure if you’re going to publish something for the entirety of the interwebs, you’d better make sure you can stand by all of it. And embrace Creative Commons and the like, because it’s awesome.

• I think my blog already needs a redesign. What do you think? The column layout seems a little off. And apparently white text on black is bad. I kind of like it, but maybe not as much as I used to.

• I think there will always be a need for people who can write well, think creatively, see things differently, speak the truth, or just make awesome things, be they stories, songs, visual art, games, articles, or software. The internet can help with all of this of course. But don’t forget that no matter how ubiquitous it seems the internet and all the latest newfangled iGadgets seem, there’s always the rest of the world. Instead of refreshing your Facebook feed again, try starting a garden, riding your bike, making something tangible and tactile with your hands, travelling somewhere new with some friends, attending a protest for something you believe in, practicing an instrument, or writing a letter to a friend. Yes, a real letter. They’re actually pretty special.

• A huge proportion of the world’s population do not see digital technology as an all-pervasive thing. There is a significant digital divide. The Internet has a long way to go before it’s a truly global and egalitarian network.

• Above all, remember: the internet is crazy.

CRAZY.

And that’s that! Thanks to everyone who has visited and read and commented and clicked my links and everything! Please do come back when I come back. Keep me on the good ol’ Google Reader! Until then, this is Duncan at DuncanWritingEditingPublishing clicking Publish and signing off.

Book Clubs

I’ve noticed a rising trend: online book clubs. My first real sight of it was Infinite Summer, a website dedicated to spending the breadth of the US summer reading the 1000-odd pages of Infinite Jest, by the late great David Foster Wallace. They followed that up with reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and that’s just wound up too. Anyone across the world who wants to join in can, reading a set amount of pages each day, supplemented by commentary, blogging, forum discussion and a huge, collaborative, social-media-fuelled exploration of the texts as everyone else reads along. The very idea of it pushes my booknerdy buttons.

Now there’s The Cork-Lined Room, a similar project but for reading Marcel Proust’s utterly enormous (3000 pages or so?) In Search of Lost Time. I think I’ll leave that one for a while, until I’ve finished War and Peace, Ulysses, Finnegan’s Wake and Moby Dick first. But heck, even one of the dudes from that hip young folk band Mumford and Sons has started a book club on the band’s website, with the first month dedicated to Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses. Despite some people’s fears that the internet distracts people from reading books, the two mediums can coexist and, clearly, complement each other.

I was keen to undertake Infinite Summer (well, it would have been a winter for me), but it was far too tricky in the middle of Uni. I’m thinking I might attempt it this summer, or soon at least. Or maybe I’ll wait around for Infinite Summer’s next project, the also enormous 2666, by Roberto Bolaño.

But while I know I’ll be glad to finally have more freedom to plough into my own books soon, I’d also be keen to be part of a real life, face-to-face, genuine book club. I’m not sure how hard it would be to agree on a book or find enough people, but I’m keen. Anyone in Melbourne keen?

ACMI is Awesome

My girlfriend and I went to ACMI at Federation Square recently and their new Screen Worlds exhibition is not just fantastic, it’s free. And it’s a permanent exhibition, but I feel you should waste no time in checking in out.

The exhibition is all about the myriad forms the moving image takes, from cinema, to animation, to video games and beyond! Besides the free video games, some stunning displays, and futuristic-looking interactive exhibits, there’s a little thing called the Timeslice. You walk into a booth , press a button, and after a few beeps, a series of cameras films you from every angle as you throw yourself into action. Then, you watch the movie back: it’s like having your own Matrix bullet-time film shoot! And then you can have the video emailed to you! My girlfriend and I had several goes at it and this video was among the best. Yes, it does take a while for it to load, but I reckon it’s entirely worth it. It’s fun doing it too; I could go do this on a weekly basis, I’m not kidding.

Also, upstairs is ACMI’s other new thing, The Australian Mediatheque. There’s several viewing booths with comfy seats, high-quality headphones (though the cords were not quite long enough ) and wide-screen TVs. From their digital database you can choose to view a huge array of Australian movies, cartoons, TV episodes and more. Or, if you call ahead a few days, you can order in just about any piece of pre-2006 Australian moving image material, sourced from archives around the country. And again, for free! Mey friends and I watched the movies The Black Balloon and Home Song Stories, both recommended and enjoyed by us all!

And the cafe at ACMI sells off all of their delicious broken choc-tops for $1 each.

Yup, I’m a ACMI acolyte now.

‘Freemium’ and Free Verse

Thought I’d share two things I’ve read recently. Both demonstrate how there’s great possibilities for authors, poets and all varieties of writers and creatives to get their work out there, all using the free-flowing intertubes, while still making money.

 

First, via a post in Spike – the Meanjin blog, I’ve learnt that uber-nerd and Boing Boing co-editor Cory Doctorow is conducting an experiment for his new book, With a Little Help. He’ll be releasing the book in myriad ways: from free Creative Commons-licensed digital copies, to a premium special-edition book valued at $10,000, and all sorts of stuff in between. Hence, the term ‘freemium’. This is somewhat similar to what Nine Inch Nails did with their music recently, but in a broader and more openly experimental way. This is all to explore what you can do when you give stuff away for free, but also self-publish and sell stuff via print-on-demand, or offer other freelance services. A big ol’ mixture. Check out his Publishers Weekly Column for even more detail. I’ll be reading his regular updates on the process with interest.

 

Cory Doctorow: experimenting with 'Freemium' for his new book

  

Second, PoetrySpeaks is a new website and a new business model, kind of like iTunes for poetry, or Facebook for poets. What’s especially cool about it is that it offers a combination of free and paid material from ‘classic’ or established poets, as well as both curated and user-driven spaces for less well-known poets to get their stuff out there, and even get paid for it. While the site still needs a lot of building up and a broader international diversity, it’s promising to see that the works of both established and emerging artists can stand side by side, giving everyone opportunities to spread their words and ideas and maybe make a little moolah.

 

So whether you write books or poetry, or whatever you create, it’s worth exploring the possibilities of the internet. Sometimes giving stuff away for free online can end up being very rewarding.

 

A Strange Way of Generating Buzz

Had to share this weird video from the Frankfurt Book Fair. It’s one of the biggest meet-ups of the year for publishers, agents and the like, but this is the first video I think I’ve ever seen from it. The Fair itself is not too far from what you’d expect, but I’ve never seen advertising like this before.

Yup, tiny little advertising banners attached to flies. The banners apparently were harmlessly stuck on with natural wax and dropped off after a while. The main effect is a whole lot of double takes and a lot of attention for Eichborn. But I wonder how many people remember the stunt rather than the name though?

Still, it’s a good reminder: there are always unique ways to get your stuff out there that simply can’t be done on the internet. We just get the YouTube’d version of it.

W+E4DM Web Feature Portfolio Part 3 – The Best Stuff On TV This Week

This is part 3 of my Web Feature Portfolio for Writing and Editing for Digital Media. My articles are for ‘the Australian online magazine of culture and the popular arts’, The Enthusiast. My third article is for one of the regular columns in their ‘TV’ category, The Best Stuff On TV This Week.

Celebrity Masterchef – Wednesday, 7:30pm, Ch10

I know, I know, but my pleasures are simple: celebrities attempting gourmet imitations, the comfortable dinnertime-viewing format and Matt Preston’s facial expressions. But if Peter Rowsthorn doesn’t out-chef Fuzzy and Alex Lloyd, there’s little else to keep me watching a semi-final full of C-grade celebrities next week.

Hungry Beast – Wednesday, 9:00pm, ABC

Kind of like curated channel surfing, or someone browsing the internet at random for you (and their website goes hand-in-hand with the show). Learn how the US military’s grim robot future is already upon us, then watch a funny sketch about vegetarianism, then an assortment of sobering factoids, then another funny sketch, and so on. Not every little segment hits the mark, but the next one probably will.

John Safran’s Race Relations – Wednesday, 9:30pm, ABC

Media outrage over this has been surprisingly subdued so far. Maybe this week’s show will get there. He’s stolen and sniffed Eurasian underpants, donned semi-realistic blackface before going speed-dating and wanked over Obama in the spirit of Jewish/Palestinian (Jelestinian) unification. It’s like a Jewish-Australian (Jewstralian?) version of Jackass, but intelligent.

Beauty and the Geek – Thursday, 8:30pm, Ch7

This week sees the geeks getting a makeover, but won’t this undo the entire premise? No! For this is manufactured and unchallenging, but an overall trashy and fun ‘reality’ TV staple.

Q&A – Thursday, 9:35pm, ABC

Last chance before summer! Watch party politicians trying to dodge meaningful questioning, see bold/awkward audience questions and witness principled rants from the one non-politician guest. You can do it, David Marr!

Can We Help? – Friday, 6:30pm, ABC

Pete Rowsthorn is great, and interesting answers to interesting questions are brilliant. Especially when they involve surprising linguistic origins for various words. Or just an explanation of why men have nipples.

Beached Az – Friday, 10:10pm, ABC

You either love it or you hate it. It’s time to pick a side, if you haven’t already. Or, if you will, “puck a side, eh bro”. Of course, you could just watch what ABC has put up on YouTube, but that would defeat the spirit of this column now, wouldn’t it?

Dexter – Saturday, 11:05pm, Ch10

Season Three of Dexter has been a slow build for me, and it was an unsettlingly welcome relief to find Miguel in the ol’ room walled with plastic wrap, ready to face death by Dexter. This season finale will undoubtably find Dexter dealing deftly with the consequences of murdering his best man. There’s definitely some loose ends to tie up before he ties the knot. You know it’s a special show when you’re morbidly drawn to the exploits of such a monster, especially when he’s David from Six Feet Under. Also: among the best opening credits ever.

Newstopia – Sunday, 12:35am, SBS

Shaun Micallef has hit the mainstream after the success of Talkin ‘bout Your Generation, but even on repeat, Newstopia is an underappreciated earlier gem. The Micallef Programme was possibly better and less reliant on then-current affairs, but when it’s Micallef, it’s all gold. Gems. Golden gems.