Friday, January 01, 2016

Editorial

edtiorial


So, Happy New Year to all my faithful readers!

The start of a new year always gives me a feeling of retrospection, and the fact that I tend to write these posts well in advance of publication doesn't really change that. I doubt there's a single person on this planet who hasn't felt at one time or another that their lives could use some improvements, or at least some changes that could make it better for them.

I suspect that my fellow geeks may do this moreso than the average person, if only because we have experience with things changing that we care about that tend to make us react quite a bit more than maybe we should.

Let me explain a bit where I'm coming from here: I'm assuming that most of you reading this are into comic books, as that's one of the biggest (if not THE biggest) focuses of this somewhat unfocused blog. Just in the time period that I've been reading comics, I've seen reboot after reboot of characters, some better than others, and the time period between reboots seems to be getting shorter and shorter.



Look at Superman, for example: The first major change in Superman during the time I've been reading comics was in the early 1970s, when he was depowered (at least for a time) by a sand creature that vaguely resembled him. Along with this change, Clark Kent was moved from being a reporter for the Daily Planet to being a TV newscaster for WGBS, plus there was this whole bizarre story in which Superman was storing his powers in a boy, calling them into play when he focused on the word "lynx" (because the boy, Billy Anders I think his name was, and a pet lynx). None of these changes lasted, of course... and the status quo was pretty much getting back to what it was before by the time Crisis on Infinite Earths came around.

This was, of course, followed by the John Byrne/Marv Wolfman reboot, beginning with Man of Steel, which gave us a more confident, modern Clark Kent, and some rethinking of Superman's powers, and reducing the number of survivors of Krypton to just Superman. This change lasted an amazingly long time, although Luthor still went from ruthless businessman to his more familiar criminal self eventually. Things continued to change through the "Death of Superman" storyline (adding new characters to the cast, giving Superman a well-reviled mullet, etc), and somewhere in there was the whole Zero Hour event that made some more subtle changes. As things got to Infinite Crisis and Final Crisis, Superman was changed even more. Some changes were welcomed by me, such as the return of Krypto and Supergirl, while others started making Superman feel less like Superman to me.

Eventually, things got to the point where I lost interest in reading the current books entirely, although my available budget for stuff like that had tightened enough to help that decision along significantly. It's increasingly obvious to me that I am not the target audience for DC's current comic books at all (although the TV shows Flash, Supergirl and Arrow, even though they themselves are reboots of a sort, I consider to be quite enjoyable).

Before I started doing this blog, when changes like those were made that I didn't like, I'd tend to find other like-minded fans and discuss what and why things went "wrong" in our opinion. And I'd imagine that in the early days of this blog, I probably complained about some stuff here... but these days, honestly, all I can do is just shake my head and go, "Well, that's money I don't need to spend."

Aside from my "Essays on Comics Characters," which are largely written as my musings on what the characters should be like and how they were developed, I don't really put the energy into it that I used to. Actually, I've probably had more conversations on how off the rails the Star Wars prequels went (in my opinion) or how bad modern pop music is than about comics these days. I also look at current geeky toys and, for the most part, while I welcome the higher level of detail, for the most part I can't see myself buying many of these at all (and the ones that do appeal to me tend to be out of my price range).

Maybe it was when I became a father that I found myself getting more introspective about life as opposed to geek life. Since we adopted our son, Tristan, I've gone from being a graphic designer at the local newspaper to a college student to a lunchroom cook to truck driver and finally to my current (as of this writing) situation with a major retailer... and pretty much my income level has been dropping with each of those changes (not where I planned to be at this point in my life).

It's all too easy to look back on things and think, "Well, if I'd done this differently, things would be better now." Probably the biggest decision I'd change if I had the chance to go back and do it different would be to choose culinary arts over medical assisting when I went back to school, as that field is much more open (and I think I would've really enjoyed it, given how much I love to cook).

I also wish that I hadn't made some of the decisions I've made in the past with this blog, such as changing the URL (I lost quite a few readers that way, and still see the old URL showing up on some blogs' link lists) and the two different hiatuses, as well as the attempt to convert this to a monthly blogazine (more on that below).

But even aside from that, I also find myself questioning past decisions regarding my parenting. I do try to do better each day, but the specters of the past (i.e., how my dad used to deal with things when I was a kid) have a tendency to haunt me today, and when I'm feeling very upset or frustrated, I seem to default to doing what my dad would've done (I really wish he was still alive just so I could tell him, "Dad, I understand entirely why you did things the way you did... kids are buttheads.").

Perhaps the thing we all need to keep in mind is that the things in life that are really the most important are the things that we have the ability to change ourselves. My role as a father and a husband is more important than my job, and certainly way more important than anything geeky. Yes, I get great enjoyment from my geeky interests, but they aren't the top priority in my life (although you'd never think that given the clutter of geeky stuff in my home office). My family has to come first, obviously.

So, what's the point of all these musings? I guess part of it is recognizing that there are priorities in life, but perhaps even more importantly, one has to strongly consider the consequences of their choices in life. Life is not a Kobyashi Maru (or however that's spelled), there aren't (usually) any no-win decisions, and you should never feel like you're forced to go in any particular direction because of circumstances. The smartest thing you can do when you're in a situation where you need to make a life changing decision is to consider carefully the potential results from each option, and work out what the best choice is for you and those people that your choices effect.

Okay, enough of the lecturing... last month, I mentioned that this was going back to more or less being a normal blog again, because the blogazine format wasn't working out the way I'd planned, so let me go into a little more detail about how that ended up not working, and what my expectations were.

My hopes were that changing Random Acts of Geekery into a magazine style format would somehow bring more readers to the blog than the daily posts, given that it would be a more substantial read to check out monthly. This hasn't been proven to be the case, as I've seen the readership declined quite a bit from before the last hiatus happened (this is normal when a blog goes into hiatus, although after the last one, the readership went back to normal levels after a few months). Since the revival, the lower readership has stayed pretty much the same from when it first came back, or even dropped a little.

To be honest, part of the problem with this format was that with the lower readership also came a much lower rate of ad revenues than before. I've never really made much money off of this blog (at best about $200 per year), but it was always a nice surprise when it hit the dollar amount needed to pay off. When I was doing daily posts, it seemed to improve the clickthrough rate compared to now.

So, it was an experiment of sorts, a noble effort perhaps, but one that didn't pay off. As a result, RAOG has gone back to a Monday through Friday format, and at least initially, I'm working it as a single post per day for the time being.

Coming up next month, I'll be doing my traditional "14 Days of Romance Comics" posts leading up to Valentine's Day, and those will be in addition to the regular posts, with bonus posts on the weekends. This will work as a similar format to what I've been doing with the Comic Reading Library posts, in which each day will feature a selection from a couple of different vintage romance comics. What I may do (depending on availability of time) is to add a second regular post for the remainder of that month for each weekday.

One thing that might help increase the chances of two posts per day during the week is if I start receiving submissions from you readers, assuming you're interested in being a part of this here bloggy thing, of course! That's not meant to try to pressure anyone into doing anything they don't want to do, but if you've ever considered starting a blog of your own but don't believe you have the time to devote to it on a regular basis, perhaps you could "pilot" it as a monthly or even weekly feature here!

An advantage of going back to the previous format, of course, is that it makes it easier for me to add content on the fly without having to do all sorts of fooling about to make it fit in. I realized while preparing last month's edition that there would be no way for me to write about Star Wars: The Force Awakens after seeing it without making it a separate post that would appear prior to the "cover" of the December installment... which is probably what I ended up doing (I'm writing this in November, so I'm still over a month away from seeing the movie!).

There's still a possibility that I may do some sort of e-magazine version of RAOG in the future, as a PDF that could be either downloaded or emailed, but that would be in addition to what I'm doing here. Again, that would be once I've managed to work out the time factor. My vision of this would be that it could be kind of a "trade paperback" version of the blog, so to speak, and I'd keep the price pretty cheap (I'm thinking a dollar an issue), just as a way to generate some extra income here, as well as let me keep my hand in print design (something I've been wanting to get back into doing). Print versus online are two very different animals, and sometimes I've found myself a bit frustrated at the limitations of what I can do, layout-wise, with the blog compared to what I had in mind, so perhaps this would help me get around that.

Anyway... things are back to what passes for normal, so far as the blog goes!

Wow, this is really turning out to be one of my longer posts, but I still have a few things I wish to discuss here!

I don't recall if I've ever written about this before, but in September of 2014, my son Tristan was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. Longtime readers may remember that Tristan is adopted (something he's certainly well aware of), and it's been a challenge dealing with that on top of everything else. One highlight of this diagnosis, however, was that last September, to commemorate the anniversary of his diagnosis, we had a special event.

See, when Tristan was in the hospital for his initial treatment for diabetes, one thing that helped him get through it was a gift of a small Lego set from the hospital, that had been donated for the kids. This brought Tristan's spirits up so much that we decided to commemorate the anniversary by having a "pay it forward" event, where we accepted donations of Legos and other toys that we brought to the hospital for the anniversary. We thought perhaps we'd gather about 60 or 70 toys, but we ended up collecting a little over 130 toys, which were greatly appreciated (chances are, they've already been given away by the time I'm writing this, given the number of kids admitted each day). We're planning on making this an annual event, and trying to expand it as much as we can.

I kind of feel that I dropped the ball a little bit by not giving you, the faithful readers of RAOG, a chance to be a part of this event. This was kind of one of the problems of doing a magazine-style blog, as I wasn't thinking about adding anything about this to the September issue, and I was working on the December issue when we started developing the event. You can be assured, as we get closer to this year's anniversary, I'll have something put together for the blog that can give you a chance to be a part of this yourself, if you're interested in doing that. It will probably be a PayPal button that you can use to make a donation.

However, you don't have to wait for that to be a part of the pay it forward... and you don't have to even send a donation to my PayPal, either. Any children's hospital would be glad to accept donations of toys, books, or other items that could be given to the patients. Yes, these donations are tax deductible (if you can take advantage of that), but of course that's not the main reason for doing that. These kids are going through a tough time in their lives, and many are probably scared about what's happening to them (especially children who have terminal conditions). Anything that we can to do make things a little bit better for them helps.

Certainly, donated toys should be brand-new (and you can get Lego sets for as little as $5-6, for example), but books could be used! Checking out your local Half-Price Books or other used book store, I'd imagine you can find many, many books that kids would like to read... and of course, comics are a nice way to spread the love of geekery (just as long as you get comics that are age-appropriate). Just about any kind of toy would be appropriate, too... stuffed animals, dolls, action figures... they don't have to be expensive to be appreciated. A lot of children's hospitals might also accept donations of DVDs, too. You can certainly contact your local children's hospital (or even a regular hospital that has a pediatrics department... not all of them do) and ask about what kind of donations would be welcomed.

Okay, I think I've asked you guys to slog through as much of this as possible... so I'll wrap this up for now, and let you look forward to whatever I post tomorrow!

Jon

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