Wednesday, December 14, 2016

December 2016 update

Greetings, citizens! It uh… it’s been awhile since I’ve updated, huh? Well, that’s the subject which I wanted to address today. I have a long, long list of things I want to review, as well as about a half-dozen or so reviews that I’ve started and haven’t finished yet. So, why haven’t I finished them or started one of the other reviews instead? Well, that’s not so simple a question to answer. There’s a myriad of reasons and explanations, and I felt that it would be prudent to discuss them with those of you who actually remember when I was trying to keep to a weekly reviewing schedule. I also thought that it would be a good idea to discuss why I want to get back into doing reviews, partly for my own benefit. I’ll start with the problems first, and then get into my motivations.

Depression and anxiety
Depression sucks. Anxiety also sucks. Both of them together are some sort of gestalt mech of horribleness rampaging through a metaphorical city. And I’ve been unsuccessfully trying to fight them for the past few years. I could try and come up with a clever explanation for how difficult it is to try and get anything meaningful done while dealing with that bullshit, but I’m going to be blunt. It is really, really fucking difficult and utterly frustrating. Even getting out of bed and going to buy groceries is a difficult task. I’m certain that those of you who also struggle with this stuff are able to sympathize.

Fear of judgement/failure
While I will argue that I am my own worst critic, I am not immune to the criticism of others. My reviews have not gotten any negative reception (save for my Man of Steel review), but they also haven’t received a lot of praise either. We all like being told that something we’ve done is worthwhile, regardless of the source. Being told that something you’ve put a lot of effort into sucks, or if it’s not up to your own personal standards, is monumentally disheartening. That fear is paralyzing to me.

Lack of confidence
This kinda ties in with the above paragraph. Confidence is an important part in anything that you do, even if all you’re doing is making yourself a PB&J sandwich. I am not, nor have I ever been, a confident person. I am my own worst critic when it comes to any of my creative endeavors. I feel like my writing is dry, long-winded, tedious, pretentious, and meanders a lot. I also have a tendency to overuse ellipses, commas, and colons/semi-colons which results in runon sentences. I feel that my analytical skills are rusty as all hell as well. Then we get into the problems associated with switching up to doing videos; I dislike how I look, I dislike my voice, my delivery needs work, I’m not comfortable with how the sample videos I’ve done have been framed, I dislike the design of my Couchman outfit, etc.. This lack of confidence ends up putting me in a self-defeating mindset. Why should I bother writing a review if it’s going to be crap that nobody cares about anyway?

Subject matter
Most of my reviews have been about Superior Spider-Man. That series is actually what made me want to start doing reviews. I love that series, and I had seen very little talk about it, beyond a few snide criticisms. But now I’ve talked about it in its entirety, save for the final issue. The other things I touched on were a mix of new things and some older. Honestly, I’m not sure what subjects I want to give a critical look at. On the one hand, doing contemporary stuff makes sense because most of the older works have already been dissected endlessly by people far more qualified than I. Contemporary stuff is also more likely to be found and read, since people are likely looking it up online. However, part of my desire to review is also because I am a newbie to this world. Sure, I’ve been interested in superheroes and the comic medium for almost my entire life, but I hadn’t actually started reading things from it until about 2010, and really not even getting heavily into it until about 2013. There are dozens of iconic and seminal works of the medium. I’ve never read Watchmen or V for Vendetta or most of the rest of Alan Moore’s work. I’ve not read The Dark Knight Returns or any other major Batman story. About the only work that I’ve seen people reference as a great work of the medium that I have read is Kingdom Come, and that I only read in the last few weeks. I want to look at these works and give thoughts on them from someone who hasn’t been reading comics for years. Someone who’s looking at these things and thinking “does this live up to the hype?” or “oh, this clearly influenced this other thing.” I feel like I need to make some definitive decisions on this front if I want to continue with doing reviews.

Review style
Up until now, most of my reviews have followed the same sort of formula as Nostalgia Critic and Linkara follow. Recap of the events of the material, providing commentary along the way, with some final overall thoughts at the end. The reason for this is pretty simple; those two guys are the ones who inspired me to start doing my own reviews. Lately, however, I’ve been giving that reviewing style a lot of thought, and I’ve seen it criticized by others. I feel like I want to find a different style, something that is less focused on the events, and more on the artistic merit of the work itself. Things like characterization, themes, pacing, and the technical aspects. However, I don’t have as much exposure to that sort of reviewing (or reviews in general, if I’m being honest). I am getting more exposure thanks in large part to the book club I joined, but it’s something I would do well to research on my own. But finding the will to do that research is hard, as I’ve touched on already.

As I’ve mentioned before (I think) doing blog entries was always just a temporary thing. I’ve always wanted to do videos for a number of reasons. First, the reviews are supposed to be a form of entertainment, and I honestly feel I’m more entertaining when I’m speaking and gesticulating rather than writing. Second, they’re more accessible. Reading a blog takes a lot of time (especially when you’re as long winded as I am) and requires more focus. Videos are quicker, and can be put on in the background while still being consumed. Not to mention that YouTube, while flawed, still allows a greater amount of traffic from random people than a blog would.
There’s also the fact that… well, I want to do skits. I’m a complete dork, so of course I couldn’t just come up with the Couchman persona and leave it be. No, I’ve come up with the beginnings of a mythos for my superhero alter-ego. Things like allies, enemies, powers and weapons, even getting into things like laws regarding superheroes in this world. Plus there’s also a number of skits I’d want to do making fun of certain superheroes (Batman and Iron Man stand out) that wouldn’t lend themselves to to my reviews. I’d include those as little post review jokes to end on.
But filming and editing videos requires developing a completely new set of skills. Or, alternatively, finding someone I can collaborate with who does possess such skills. The first option runs into the same motivation/energy issues I’ve brought up before. The second option is certainly an attractive one (I’m a big fan of collaborative efforts), but runs into the problem of not actually knowing such an individual. I’m also quite terrible at meeting new people and forming new relationships, so that adds another layer of difficulty.

So, that’s all the difficulties of my trying to get back into reviewing things. I cannot stress enough that while all of this is daunting, it’s not making me want to quit. But why don’t I want to quit? Well, here’s a few reasons:

Creative outlet
Writing, even analytical writing, is a creative endeavor for me. It takes a creative mind to be able to look at something, and find the best way to describe and analyze it. I am a creative person at heart, although I fully admit to seriously neglecting my creative side as of late. I still want to resume my other creative pursuits, but I am of the opinion that you can’t have too many. Some days, you’re just not going to be able to get anything done in a certain area. Back when I was in school, I’d have days where I just couldn’t draw. Everything turned out terrible, regardless of how many tries I took at it. When that happened, I would instead do some painting, or writing, or work on my D&D campaign. Different creative activities stimulate different parts of the mind, and that stimulus can help deal with blocks in the others.

Exercise analytical muscles
This is tied in with the previous reason to a degree. I think it’s important to be able to look at a given work critically, especially if it’s something you’re working on. Sure, a personal work is going to have a certain bias about it, but being able to notice the flaws and strengths is vital in order to improve, not just that particular work but your overall body of work. One of the things I sincerely miss about college is doing critiques with my classmates and professors. Noticing flaws and strengths in the works of others benefitted my own work substantially, and I feel that it can do so again.
Highlight things I love, criticize things that need criticized
This is pretty straightforward. There are plenty of things I love, and I want to share that love with others. There are also things that need to be criticized in order for the mediums and industries that I care about to improve. Those thoughts are not necessarily exclusive either. I’ve read critiques of books I love that were rather harsh on them, because the author of the critique has a very different viewpoint than mine. I still love the books, and feel that they’re great, but I was also able to understand the writer’s criticisms and see that they were legitimate.

Connect with people
This one is also pretty straightforward. I’ve never really been much of a member of any fandoms. Sure, I’m a fan of plenty of things, but I mostly just enjoy things on my own and sometimes with my close friends. But lately, that’s been feeling pretty hollow. I want to be able to connect with other people about the things I love, and bond over that love. I know that there are other ways of trying to go about doing that, but I don’t really feel that those are quite right for me. Aside from going to conventions that is, but I have a mixed relationship with those (not to mention limited funds for attending such events).

This is pretty simple; I like talking about comics. I have fun talking about what my favorite characters are doing/have done, and making fun of incredibly stupid things that happen. I like coming up with my own headcanon, and sharing that strangeness with others. I watch other people doing this kind of stuff, and I think to myself “they look like they’re having such a good time. I want to do that!”

So, that’s the whole deal. I am putting forth the effort to get back into the swing of things. I’m actively trying to get past all of the things holding me back, but it’s not easy and it’s taking time, much more time than I’m happy with. I am tentatively planning on doing an unboxing video of the final Marvel Collector Corps box of the year, but things may change. Thank you for sitting through this whole thing, as well as your patience and support.

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