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September 2007 Archives

Continuity, or: How the development of modern story-arc-based TV parallels the development of webcomics

I was chatting with EC just now, and she was commenting that DVDs have really changed television by making shows with continuous story arcs more accessible.

I think this parallels the advantage of the webcomic. With traditional daily newspaper comics, you could not rely on anyone reading any particular strip, so you couldn't really sustain significant story arcs. Sometimes you'd have a few strips that all riff off the same story, and characters can develop a bit and change over long spans of time, but the comics generally had to stand on their own. This is similar to traditional TV shows, which had to be episodic, because you couldn't expect people to watch every episode, and you didn't want to alienate casual viewers.

With the webcomic, those barriers are removed in large part. If you miss a comic or two you can just click back to the archives and catch up. Even if you jump in to a comic a year or two late, you can start reading from the beginning of the archives. (I think this breaks down a bit once the comic lasts many years, when it becomes less feasible to catch up on all the backlogs, though, and in fact I see this as one of the weaknesses of the webcomic medium. But more on that later.) And so webcomics can have continuity whereas newspaper comics cannot.

A combination of Internet fan sites, DVDs, and episode downloads have done for TV what webcomics did for comics. Back in the mid-90s, Babylon 5 was an early experiment in a pre-planned story arc, and I think at least a small part of its success was due to the excellent fan-site Lurker's Guide that cataloged all the major plot developments from each episode. People never have to be confused by some major event (as long as they had Internet access, but Internet early adopters had at least a fair amount of overlap with Babylon 5 fans).

With the spread of cheap full-season DVDs, people could jump into a show in its second or third season by catching up on all the episodes they missed. This is what EC was talking about. And so shows like 24, Desperate Housewives, and Lost could have continuous storylines, and people wouldn't feel, well, lost.

I think the most recent advance is the downloadable episode (first illegal, and later legal). This allows you to catch up on a missed episode without waiting for a rerun, and even without waiting for DVDs to come out. Now you don't have to skip a beat before watching next week's episode. (I've been downloading shows from iTunes when I forget to tape them on my VCR, and so I'm annoyed that NBC is going Windows-only soon. :P But speaking of which, let's not underestimate the effect of Tivos, which made it easier to tape shows.)

Now, I'm not saying TV shows with story arcs are necessarily better than episodic TV shows. There are plenty of episodic TV shows that "reset" after every episode that are still great. Similarly, I'm not saying that webcomics are inherently better than newspaper comics, either. (Though I do think the newspaper comic world is a bit stagnant because of the limited space and the difficulty of canceling long-running comics.) Also, as EC pointed out, TV shows do still jump the shark, and that's of course true of webcomics as well. (Shark-jumping in shows with story arcs can be a bit more annoying, though, because you might feel more compelled to keep watching to follow the plot, even though you're no longer enjoying the experience as much.)

So to go back to my earlier comment about a problem with webcomics, you can still only milk a good idea for so long before you need to come up with a new idea. And that's why it's a good thing for shows to end sometimes, instead of getting renewed forever. (It's better when the endings can be planned a bit in advance, though, as opposed to summary cancellation.)

But we still have something new and good. We now have an alternative form of storytelling that didn't really exist before. We can tell longer-form stories that can focus on more subtle character development and more intricate plots. And it's all thanks to the Internet and DVDs.

(P.S.: Yes, I realize I've left out any discussion of soap operas, Asian dramas, telenovelas, comic books, and graphic novels. I'm making no claims that this post is a Complete Theory of Television and Comics. :P)



(Project 365 Day 337)

Tonight I watched 3:10 to Yuma, and it was pretty good. Very well-cast and great music. The only thing that sucked was how this couple behind us kept giggling and making fun of the movie. They didn't tone down giggling until maybe halfway through the movie after I gave them several dirty looks. I think they must've been high. :\

Spaceship Patio II

Spaceship Patio II

(Project 365 Day 336)

This patio heater reminded me of the Icarus II spacecraft from Sunshine. The stem totally looks like some sort of truss, and the light part might be some sort of futuristic engine.

For comparison, here's a shot of the ship from the movie:

[Icarus II]

Best PowerPoint presentation ever

This is the best PowerPoint presentation ever, presented at an AAAS meeting:

Here are the actual PowerPoint slides used, and here's the technical paper version of the talk. You should probably watch the video first so as not to spoil it, though.

San Diego mayor gives emotional speech in support of gay marriage

The Republican mayor of San Diego decides to support gay marriage instead of just civil unions because his daughter and some members of his staff are gay. And he gives a really emotional speech [Flash video] about his change of heart.

Europe 2007, Day 2: London

St. Pancras Station from the British Library

That's St. Pancras Station, as seen from the British Library.

Our plan was to see London a bit at the beginning of the trip and a bit at the end. We were pretty exhausted from the flight, though, so we just went to see Tower Bridge and took a bunch of touristy photos there. I liked this big red wall the British Library had, though.

We had some dinner at this Chinese place I used to go to all the time when I lived in London, but it was kinda bad. I think they must've changed owners some time in the last few years. :\

I was very excited to finally have some European Orange Fanta again. You see, Fanta in Europe has 10% juice! Fanta in the US has 0% juice. It tastes totally different.

Europe 2007, Day 1: Flight Out

Creepy Virgin Atlantic Safety Video Characters Virgin Atlantic has a screen on every seatback, and you can watch the movies you want when you want to. It's pretty awesome, even if their safety video characters kinda freaked me out.

I watched Waitress, which was light but fun. My favorite character was this plucky, insecure, and utterly adorable supporting character called Dawn. Turns out she's played by the writer/director, Adrienne Shelley, who was unfortunately senselessly murdered while working on post-production for this movie! :( So sad! She was found hanging by a bedsheet in her bathroom, but it turned out she was actually strangled by a neighbor who get pissed off when she made a noise complaint. Wtf?! And so her promising career was cut short. :\

I also watched most of The Namesake, but with half an hour left, my movie was cut short because the plane landed half an hour early. D'oh! Once we got on the ground, the jetway broke down, so we ended up having to wait half an hour on the ground at Heathrow before they sent us some stairs. :P

What was even more amusing was that, once we got down the stairs, we got in a bus that drove all the way around the plane in a big circle to the left... only to drop us off at a door that was no more than 100 feet to the right of the plane. I guess they had to do that for safety reasons or something, but it was still kind of ridiculous. :)

But I get ahead of myself! Technically, all that happened on Day 2, not Day 1. I boarded the plane on Day 1, but arrived in London on Day 2. Oops.

No Dragon Wars trailer for you! First, you must watch this Dragon Wars commercial! or: Preroll ads get truly absurd

So I was looking at IMDb's "opening this week" list to confirm that Across the Universe is opening. I noticed that Dragon Wars is also opening. I had heard about this. It's a Korean movie with American actors, the biggest budget South Korean movie ever, supposedly. So I went searching for a trailer and came upon this IGN page. I decided to stream the trailer.

Before I could watch the trailer, IGN presented me with a 30-second preroll commercial...... of Dragon Wars! It was not skippable, and I had to finish watching it in order to gain the privilege of watching the 90-second Dragon Wars trailer.

W. T. F.

I know I've complained before about having to watch preroll ads in order to watch video game trailers, but this is, well, really there's just not much more I can say about it. :P

P.S.: On the other hand, I suppose this is the ultimate in targeted advertising... :P

Time Zones (a haiku)

I just wrote a haiku. I believe it to be the best haiku ever written. It is about a topic truly dear to my heart.

"Time Zones"
by Kenneth Lu

UTC offset
Changing each spring and fall for
Daylight saving time

(Note how it even contains seasonal references, which are missing from most amateur attempts at haikus.)

About September 2007

This page contains all entries posted to the klog in September 2007. They are listed from oldest to newest.

August 2007 is the previous archive.

October 2007 is the next archive.

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