Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Alex's Adventures in Internetland: The Year So Far

Oh gosh. I haven't posted anything on this blog for the entirety of 2016 to this point. I've got a couple of things cooking, but in the meantime it seemed polite to let you know what I've been busy doing instead (namely, writing for other sites for actual currency that I can use to feed myself and my very hungry dog).


My column over at ComicsAlliance, The Issue, has warped into something I didn't expect: an outlet for the frustrated English-Literature student that still resides within me. Like when I tried to capture the purple-prose energy of Grant Morrison's ambitious but flawed picture-book issue of Batman and channel it into my write-up:
"Van Fleet’s art constantly strains to break out of the restraints it’s been given, blurring the edges of boxes so they look like a Papa Roach album cover, or even flopping out onto the rest of the page to disrupt the reading flow of the text. Morrison embraces his inner pulp-fiction writer practically to the point of strangulation; strings of adjective and simile tumbling out onto the page like he’s not fully in control of the keyboard.

The result is actually quite ugly, with a visual style evoking the manual for a bargain-bin videogame, and writing that crushes just about every convention of ‘respectable’ literature like a crook’s windpipe under the weighty tread of a Bat-boot."
(And if that's not highfalutin enough for ya, I also wrote one about Rudyard Kipling, or at least the version of him that appears in The Unwritten.)

On the exact opposite end of the spectrum, here's a dumb ComicsAlliance thing about when Spider-Man rolls his mask up to his nose, and how Kirsten Dunst getting off with Toby Maguire shaped me as an adolescent. (To this day, I can only get my mack on while upside-down and wearing a ski mask.)

"My own personal kinks aside, though, that rolled-up mask is just a cool practical consideration that makes the costume feel that much more lived-in. It’s probably also my favourite thing about cosplay at cons, or Hallowe’en — seeing people in these costumes in downtime, at lunch or a bar or on the dancefloor, expresses a different side of the characters they’re dressed as."


Meanwhile, over at the day job, the ongoing ad block war (which is the third most fun war of the last six months, after Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Captain America: Civil War) has provided plenty of fuel for my inner tabloid writer, as both sides of the debate throw increasingly soap-opera-esque insults at each others.

As part of that, I spoke to Alexander Hanff, a privacy advocate who's basically threatening to take the entire European ad industry to court. The result was one of my favourite interviews I've ever done:

“People have the right to block ads,” Hanff told Mobile Marketing. “People have the right to walk out of the room or switch the channel when their TV shows commercials. People have the right to not look at the ads or destroy the ads in a newspaper. There is no law anywhere that states people have to look at ads, so to call these ad block users ‘thieves’ is completely false.

“The people that are breaking the law are the publishers and the ad tech industry and the developers of the software that is doing this surveillance, and that needs to end. And it’s my goal to stop it.”

(I also got to write one of my beloved brief-history-of pieces, this time on the occasion of Twitter's tenth birthday.)

With the lonnnnng gap between issues, it's been a while since Mr Maytom and I once more returned to our Tumblr side project, Tim + Alex Get TWATD. But my most recent essay was heavily delayed enough to fall into the 2016 window, and fortunately it's one of the ones I'm happiest with, as I pick apart the distancing effect I felt across the course of WicDiv's 'Commercial Suicide' arc.

"Each guest artist bends the comic’s style to match with the relevant god, but in a lot of cases I think it’s actually more to do with how they want to be seen.

Brandon Graham trades in McKelvie’s crisp thin line for something softer and more sensuous, even while we realise that Ruth is actually a character in denial about her feelings, not embracing them. Stephanie Hans’ glorious painted art amps up the mythology angle, in line with Amaterasu’s self-presentation as the most classical god. Reading the issue, I didn’t feel any closer to the character, because Amaterasu is permanently posed, every panel is an epic mural."

(For more of me enthusing about Gillen/McKelvie comics, and exposing a little too much of myself, check out my ComicsAlliance review of their Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl, which kind of turns into a veiled rant about how I'm getting old.)

I mentioned already that I have a dog, right? Right at the start of the year, I managed to find a neat way of closing that using-my-time-to-actually-feed-him loop by writing a Kotaku piece about dogs and games, from Nintendogs to The Sims.
"There are some things that no game can really prepare you for. I don't remember the bit in MGS V, for example, where D-Dog is sick en route to a mission, producing a substance that resembles awful school-dinner chilli con carne but which he apparently finds delicious.
There's no Nintendogs minigame that has you waggling the stylus to pee against a shed at 3am in a sleep-deprived attempt to teach your new puppy that the garden is a great place to go to the toilet."
(I also wrote another thing over at Kotaku about pairing music with games, including Dre/GTA and Carly Rae/Audiosurf, but as that was specifically about 2015 stuff I've relegated it to this bracket.)

And if you'd like to get a little better acquainted with little Lucky Spencer-Dale, why not watch this lovely short film starring he, me and Imi, directed by friend of the blog Reece 'Shimmerman' Lipman?



(There's also a 'profile' on me in which I answer a set of questions about London as stupidly as I can manage.)

Oh, speaking of videos... Would you like to see me looking like an idiot in a variety of VR goggles? Of course you would.



(And if that piqued your curiosity, check out this more in-depth piece about my feelings and reservations about virtual reality after spending a bit more time there.)

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London, United Kingdom
Videogames, film, music, comics: feed them into the Alex-Spencer machine and out come neat little articles. Like the ones you're looking at here.