Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Surly Nerd

Good day, people.

I wanted to take this time to speak to you about something that I’ve discovered I rather love: podcasts. Specifically, my favorite podcast by far is a small group of guys who call themselves The Surly Nerd. It’s a podcast about geek culture. From their Facebook page:


All the geeky Comic Book/Entertainment/Gaming news you need, we are Also available via iTunes -Two Drink Minimum


Discussion and debate of nerd news and related topics. We rant about movies, comics, TV, technology, and video games. Some (ALL THE) adult language.

This basically sums up my experience with listening to them. It’s a group of guys local to the Austin, TX area that talk about the things that they love – which so just so happen to be games, movies, comics, and technology. Y'know, the things that I love to talk about, too.

Their show is divided into segments that they call "levels." This, of course, being a nod to video game culture, but is intended to divide the topics up into discreet parts. I enjoy that they did this, rather than being all over the place, because it makes it much easier to mentally digest. Even though loosely organized in these discreet parts, it's easier to follow than other radio shows.

Since I have to commute in to work every day, it’s been really nice to have something to listen to. I can’t emphasize enough how obnoxious regular talk radio is. I either get fart/sex jokes that aren’t funny, or I get news that’s either barely newsworthy or done in a format that makes me want to pass out from boredom. I ended up choosing neither of those options because they both suck. Really, which of those options would you choose?

The main personalities of their show are James, Tony, and Jay. Each of these guys has a full-time job; some of them even have their own families. The Surly Nerd is a side project for them, something they do because they enjoy it, and not their full-time gig. This makes it better, in my opinion. While the production value isn’t as impressive as an established radio show, they may up for it in vigor.

James is the main host and does most (all?) of the research that goes into their talking points. With a weekly format for their show, they cover a tremendous amount of material. I’m constantly impressed by how much work James must put into this show. His topics are not always interesting to me, but the sheer volume of information gives me pause. I’ve always been curious where he gets his info, it would make writing Fictiverse a lot easier if I had half of his network. Admittedly, I envy his dedication to the show.

Tony is the surliest of their surly bunch by far, being called Angry Tony for a reason. Being the co-producer he has his plate full with much of the other aspects of the show that don’t fall under James’s purview. From what I gather, he is largely responsible for all of the show’s logistics: website, sound editing, music, and video (for their rare video episodes).  His opinions are almost always very strong and usually all over the place. Any consistency he shows comes from his love of artistry… and while I don’t agree all the time, I respect that in him.  Additionally, he hates Michael Bay… FINALLY SOMEONE AGREES WITH ME!

Jay is busy doing other projects and hasn’t been around as regular as I would have liked. He’s a Brit, and it’s nice to have his sense of humor and personality in the mix. Plus, he tends to align closest with my opinions of things. The best thing about having him on the show is that he’s an excellent counterpoint to Tony. While Tony gets very passionate about things, Jay is much more laid back, so he offsets some of the anger coming from Tony. He likes the things he likes and no matter what goading is done by Tony, he rarely takes the bait.

There are a few reasons why I like this show. As I already mentioned, it’s a lot better than the crap played on the radio these days. Besides this, these guys do it because they want to and they like it. Since they’re not getting paid for it – operating out of their own pockets or on slim donations – they put more of themselves into it. I always like trying to help out people working for their dreams because I like to think people would do the same for me. It’s easy enough for me to listen to something I enjoy and tell others about it.

Additionally, since these men haven’t been established as an industry icon, their opinions and feelings are honest. The impression I get from many large studios and established “reputable” news sources is that they are for sale. At the very least, these places can be held ransom by publishers or developers. Take GameInformer, for example. This is a magazine that I have had a subscription to for years. However, it’s pretty clear that someone tells them what reviews to give – which is why I recommend ignoring that section. For example, they have given games terrific, extremely high ratings when games didn't deserve it. Some games are almost nothing more than additional levels, skin changes, and not even bug fixes. Otherwise the games are buggy beyond belief, don’t deliver things that were promised, or aren’t nearly as great as they tell us they are.

The guys at The Surly Nerd almost never let the industry pull the wool over their eyes, which is one major reason why I continue to listen. While some of the foul-mouth talk has put me off occasionally, the fact of the matter is that no one is putting these guys on but themselves. It’s refreshing to me to see people that aren’t being bought by the industry. I may not always agree with them, but they stick to their guns and they almost always justify their opinions with statements of fact. While guilty of some fanboy moments (who isn’t?), the three of them have different enough opinions that they keep each other in check, which is another reason I like this show. They will debate with each other about differing opinions and it doesn’t result in a shouting match. They’ve had guests on the show and when they said something counter to the opinions of the others, they weren't screamed at. I can’t say enough how important it is to live with people that have opinions different than your own. Accepting others is an important life skill.

Got a little off track there, sorry.

Anyway, I think this show is worth listening to. There is adult language and they talk about adult themes, but I hope that doesn’t put you off. When they’re not using bad language and being generally grumpy (it is called The Surly Nerd, after all), they make excellent points and talk about things that most nerds like to discuss. What’s more, they actually respond when you email them.

I must mention that I’ve met these guys before, though they probably don’t remember. We had a nice discussion on how they became media when I met them at RTX, which is why I listen to their program now.

I promise, they’re not as surly in real life.


Monday, February 10, 2014

The LEGO Movie!

Hey Everyone!

It's been a long time since I've updated, and for that I apologize. It turns out that, in getting a promotion, work likes to take up all of your time!

Anyway, on to more important things:

This weekend, I had the privilege of seeing the newly released LEGO Movie. It was great, and you should see it, too:

Without trying to get too spoiler-filled, the movie is about Emmet, a simple construction minifig. He's the "chosen one" of the LEGO people, a prophesied hero who will save the LEGO world when he is most needed. However, as the movie poster so clearly states, he's a nobody. Much to the chagrin of the minifig "rebellion" he's not super smart, clever, creative, or really great at anything. He's Joe Everyman... he's Emmet:

The LEGO world is in danger! Lord Business has plans on destroying everything! He has in his mind a devious plan to keep everything absolutely perfect... at the cost of everyone! So, a daring group of minifigs, called the "Master Builders" band together to take on this evil minifig and CEO of Octan (the in-universe LEGO corporation).

Potential Spoilers Ahead:

This is a terrific example of a movie for everyone. One of the things this movie has going for it is an extremely large following of people who grew up with LEGO Sets and know what they're all about. What makes it even more fun is that there are references everywhere in this movie to things both LEGO and pop culture that everyone can appreciate.

It's a terrific mockbuster - a movie that mocks blockbuster films. The movie does a fantastic job using the tropes that we all know from some of the biggest summer movies, but it does so in a tongue-in-cheek way that is too high-concept for children, making the film entertaining for adults.

The film's overarching story is about Emmet, this nobody minifig who goes through a sort of crucible that makes him into a something more... a hero. However, the great thing is, the movie makes it clear that to be a hero, you don't need to be anyone special. You can be Emmet and still save the world. So he joins up with this band of misfits and tries to save the LEGO World:

The underlying story of the movie is about teamwork, and how an effective team can accomplish more than the individual parts. And despite what Fox Business says, the movie does not have an anti-business message. In fact, if anything the movie has a pro-business message in that Octan employs everyone in the LEGO City world, they're all provided for, and everyone seems happy. Everything is awesome, after all. It's just a coincidence that Lord Business is the bad guy. But if you've watched the movie, you know that he's not a bad guy because of his owning a business or being the CEO of Octan, but because no one took him seriously and no one accepted him for who he was. Honestly, it's a great message for kids to receive and adults to hear.

I'm happy to say that I'll be owning this movie when it comes out. Plus, I can't wait for the LEGO Movie specific sets to come out... can't wait for Benny's Spaceship!

Spaceship, Spaceship, SPACESHIP!!!