Things Conclude

14 May

I’ve seen the world / I’ve kissed all the pretty girls / I’ve said my goodbyes” – The Unicorns

I don’t think it’s unusual to be good at beginnings, OK at middles and not-so-great at endings. Rarely do I struggle with first words, but saying goodbye or ending on the right note or not knowing when to stop is often my undoing.

Since last time, I was looking forward to getting through to the other side of several things, of finishing off a set of assignments so I could get back to things being normal (which is not really a thing, this “normal” time, but I mean relatively speaking). I was looking ahead to South by Southwest Interactive being over in mid-March. I was looking forward to wrapping up the last few episodes of The Walking Dead Season Four and the last season of How I Met Your Mother for Previously.TV as both shows sprinted to the finish. (Who could have know that of the two, HIMYM would have the more controversial, darker conclusion?)

My birthday was coming and I was kind of looking forward to just getting past that and saying goodbye to 38 without giving it as much thought as I did last year, when I felt time rushing at me and very little of what I wanted to accomplish completed. It’s different this year. The two things I wanted most to bring into the world last year have both come to be. Instead of approaching this birthday with dread that so much was left to do, I was able to look back and feel a little more on-track. That was nice. But it was still kind of a so-long to an age and a time.

I didn’t know that there would be a lot more goodbyes than I was anticipating. I didn’t know, for example, that Television Without Pity, my online home for so many years for writing about gay alien superheroes, among other wonderful things, was going to be shut down. For the last few years, I hadn’t been recapping, only working on videos with my brother (which, unfortunately, appear to have not survived the death of TWOP online; maybe we can get them back up somehow) and doing a once-a-year tech gift guide. But it was still the place from which so many wonderful things sprang, where I found a big hunk of my online voice and where I made a lot of good friends. That news stung. You begin to take for granted that things don’t last forever when something like that looms so large you can’t imagine it gone. For a while, it looked as if all the recaps, all those years of work from so many writers, were just going to disappear. It took me a few days to remember that, oh yeah, Pablo and I did more than 100 videos for them as well. Where were those going to go?

I had those things in my head rolling around as SXSW receded into memory and the stuff with TWOP was getting so much attention recently and occupying my thoughts. Then I got a call from my wife. She found our cat, Rico, near our front door. He was gone, suddenly, this sweet, bold, cat who was the active adventurer of our three (then two, now one).

Not to make this the Dead Cat Journal, but I feel like this just happened, like I just buried a beloved friend. It was almost two years ago, but it hit hard. Cosa was a few years older, crankier, filled with strife and struggle. Rico was a happy cat, fun and carefree and completely independent. He seemed ever young and immortal.

MY car.

My daughter is about to complete first grade. My brother and I decided to take a short break from our Space Monkeys! comic for about two months to work on some other stuff and recharge our batteries. This month, I celebrated my 10-year wedding anniversary, which like a lot of things with us, always seems to fall in the middle of the week with a celebration planned later. We ended up making up for it with a fun weekend trip to Austin (away from the kids).  These three things aren’t real conclusions, but they are at least commas in the action, pauses to reflect in a stream of activity.

I don’t really know what to make of all the actual endings, though. I know that the things I care about most continue. I don’t know what to do for Rico’s brother, Diego, but I hope to make him a happy cat who doesn’t grieve for long. Our Shots podcast continues, and it’s been fun and rewarding in so many ways. But that, too, is due for a turn: my co-host Tolly is soon to have a baby, so there’ll be a lot of tap dancing and filling-in with guest-hosts while she’s gone, but that’s not the same as a conclusion, but another pause in the conversation.

TWOP certainly continues in spirit (and then some) at Previously, which in one of those weird, perfectly apt course-corrections of the universe, received a flood of traffic and new forum activity after the TWOP announcement.

Except for the situation with Rico, which is just sad (it took us a while to finally tell the girls and they were crushed for only a few seconds before asking if they could get new pets), the other goodbyes seem like opportunities to reevaluate, to use some of the free time (and vacation time) to figure out what other things I want to be doing and bringing ahead with me and what things I want to leave in the past.

Most of the things I’ve been happiest with have bubbled up from restless energy and, after several months of working at full speed, I’m looking forward to feeling a little bored and then breaking out of that.

The end of TWoP

 

End of TWOP

A last message at TelevisionWithoutPity.com

 

My online life really started with Television Without Pity. So much happened in the more than 13 years I wrote for them. I spent years with Smallville. I met so many of my favorite people. I made videos with my brother, more than 100 of them. And even toward the end, when I was really just doing a holiday tech gift guide for them annually, it still felt like home, a place I’d always want to come back to and check in with, a place I knew I could always go back to if I wanted to.

I said my goodbyes in a forum thread that included farewells and thanks from the staff past and present. I know there’s probably much more to say, but I feel like I left my heart and my tears in that post.

Recode broke the news about TWOP being shut down.

The archives will be preserved, at least for the recaps. The site went dark in early April and the forums will shut down after May 31.

Previously.tv

Part of the weirdness of TWOP shutting down has been that the site’s original creators, who went on to create Previously.tv, suddenly have this huge influx of new forum posters (the forums, as luck would have it, had just gone live a few weeks before the TWOP announcement) and of displaced writers, a lot of whom have a new place to pitch their ideas.

All of this happened on my last week of writing about Season Four of The Walking Dead and the week of the last episode ever of How I Met Your Mother.

It was also the same week that I got to be a guest on my favorite podcast, Extra Hot Great, in a first-ever Skype-remote third-coast extravaganza! We of course talked about those two shows and a lot more and I came THIS CLOSE (fingers squeezed together) to winning game time and then completely choked on my own hubris and exhaustion. Not to spoil it. I won’t tell you who DID win, so go listen to it.

As part of that podcast, I also appeared on four EHG Minis that week, including one about reality show shop challenges, one about documentary TV reboots (shoutout to cranky Mr. Wizard!), a Mini about actors on cancelled showed who should be picked up by other shows and a Mini about the way TV shows get cities we lived in wrong (in my case, Austin and The Real World).

And then here’s all the Walking Dead Particles and HIMYM Show-O-Matic write-ups (all screen shots AMC TV and CBS, respectively):

Walking Dead S4E12: Beth and Daryl get drunk-ass

Walking Dead Season Four, Episode 12: Beth and Daryl hang out and drink moonshine and stuff and it’s not at all weird or overly sentimental.

(I missed Episode 13 because of South by Southwest, but Tara Ariano did an awesome job subbing that week)

Walking Dead S4E14: Lizzie's folly

Walking Dead Season Four, Episode 14: The one where THEY WENT THERE with Lizzie and Mika. Boy did this one bum me out for days. I think this might be the most disturbing episode of the whole series so far.

Walking Dead S4E15: Shut up, Glenn

Walking Dead Season Four, Episode 15: Glenn is all schmoopy about Maggie, blah blah blah, tunnelcakes.

 

Walking Dead S4E16: Terminus among us

Walking Dead Season Four, Episode 16: Terminus is among us and it’s some crazy-ass shit in there.

A half-season that started off kinda slow and got good and crazy toward the end.

 


 

 

And now for that other show that’s not quite as good at killing off characters:

HIMYM S9E19: Oh no, don't do this!

How I Met Your Mother, Season Nine, Episode 19: The one where they hint that something in Ted and The Mother’s future might be VERY WRONG OH NO WHY DIDN’T WE KNOW BETTER THAN TO STOP WATCHING RIGHT THEN AND THERE!?

I didn’t do Episode 20 because of SXSW, but read Tara’s write-up here.

HIMYM S9E20: Oh cool, I like that guy.

How I Met Your Mother, Season Nine, Episode 21: Ted and The Mother’s first date, the actual wedding and Gary Blauman in a weird and random episode that should have flagged us to the misery ahead.

HIMYM S9E21: Jeez, FINALLY.

How I Met Your Mother, Season Nine, Episode 22: The penultimate episode strains and strains to tie things up, which we’ll soon learn was mere misdirection.

HIMYM S9E23: How to Mess It All Up

How I Met Your Mother, Season Nine, Episode 23/24: The finale. Holy moley did they miscalculate on this one and how much people would hate what they saw in the last few minutes. I’m not even going to spoil it or go into it, just Google, “How I Met Your Mother biffed ending” or “HIMYM wtf?” or “HIMYM what the shit went wrong!?” and you’ll get an idea. Or better yet, read what I wrote. I think I was surprisingly kind in my write-up given that I watched every single episode of the show and felt the ending completely negated a lot of what came before. But it’s over. And we never have to speak of it again.

Ginsberg done lost it!

And in a really fun one-shot, I subbed for an episode of Mad Men and it happened to be the nuttiest one of this half season 7, the one with the nipple and the threesome and all the insanity.

I plan to come back for the next season of Walking Dead because those Particles are super fun to do, and hope to write some other stuff here and there this summer. Go check out Previously if you haven’t already. There’s so much great stuff posted all the time.

 

Statesman stuff (non-SXSW)

"Titanfall," a game I wrote about

Stuff I have been writing since March for the Statesman that didn’t involve South by Southwest Interactive or Statesman Shots:

And in a nice break from all the tech stuff, I got to write a few reviews for the Moontower Comedy Festival. One was a review of Maria Bamford, whom I’d never seen live and who, I thought, was revelatory.

Then there was Fred Armisen’s thing that wasn’t really a full performance, but more like a good hang? Is that even a thing? Can you get paid to be a good hang in front of people? Because that’s a career I could really get behind.

 

SXSW insanity

#SXSW in one photo. #360sxsw

It’s been more than a month, so I won’t rehash everything about SXSW Interactive. It’s the busiest work time of the year for me and, this many years later, I still throw myself fully into the thing even as it expands in both directions (starting earlier, ending later as it bleeds into SXSW Music).

This year, one of the interesting things was that Fast Company did an oral history of Interactive and I was one of dozens of people they interviewed about the fest. I’m quoted in a fun wrap-up they did and in the full e-book they released before the festival (iBooks version; Kindle version).

That sort of set the tone of the festival a bit; a lot of it seemed to be spent looking back on how the fest feels now compared to its early years and looking ahead wondering if the tremendous growth has damaged its future.

The main pieces I wrote as previews of SXSW Interactive 2014 included a SXSW 101 for newbies that ran as a Digital Savant column.

During the fest, we ran a photo essay (also as a column) showing some of the visual highlights.

I had a front-page story covering the Edward Snowden talk with a video wrap-up about it as well.

Other keynotes I covered included Chelsea Clinton, Neil deGrasse Tyson, “Mythbusters” co-host Adam Savage, 23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki, and opening speaker Austin Kleon. I also interviewed Austin Kleon right before the festival about his new book, Show Your Work, and about the talk.

Panels and other coverage stuff:

Daft Punk but Latino

My wrap-up of the festival for the paper that ran two days after the fest concluded was about how SXSW Interactive this year struggled with the signal-to-noise ratio.

We broke some news about attendance dropping at Interactive for the first time in many years, but due to a numbers snafu from the festival, that turned out not to actually be true; the festival actually grew another 7 percent in 2014.

And later on, with a little more perspective, I wrote 10 lessons to take away from this year’s festival (plus two bonus lessons on the blog post about the column).

I probably missed one or two things, but honestly, at this point, who the fuck cares? If you even came close to making it through that list, you care a lot more about my coverage of the fest at this point than I do nearly two months later. It feels like a fever dream, honestly. A really fun one.

Titanfall is here. #sxsw #sxsw360

The George Takei story

Here is the story that goes with that video, in brief.

During SXSW I got offered an interview with George Takei, who was in town promoting a new online show he was working on called Takei’s Take. He was also doing a panel that I was going to have to miss and we kept going back and forth on whether we could schedule something or not.

After lots of wrangling and dealing with downtown traffic congestion, I was able to make it out for a very short window we had with him and one of our new videographers met me there. As we got ready to sit down on the rooftop of a building pretty far away from all the SXSW action, I told our videographer pretty much everything I knew about Takei, from random Star Trek trivia to how much I’d learned about him from his years as an announcer on The Howard Stern Show. Who knew how he’d be in “Real life,” but on that show, at least, he was an extremely good sport, a guy comfortable enough to talk about his personal life, his penis preference, life with his husband Brad and, on an unexpectedly poignant radio documentary on Stern’s network, his time as a child in an internment camp for Japanese-Americans during World War II.

We sat down with George finally, who was as warm, welcoming, sharp and gregarious as one would hope. The video is the bulk of the conversation and I think he was pleased to get questions about the musical he’s working on. And I’m pretty damned sure nobody else interviewing him that day got him to sing. (Around the 9:30 mark) I’m adding a line to my resume’s list of skills that says, “Got serenaded by George Takei.”

Here’s what is not in the video: I asked George if he’s sick of people coming up and doing impressions of his voice and he said not at all, he finds it flattering. He may have been acting polite and secretly despises it but when I intoned in my best Takei voice the word, “Musculature,” he gave out a hearty laugh that didn’t seem faked.

But the best part was after the interview when I was handed a small temporary tattoo of George Takei’s face and I told him, “I know just where to put this!”

And, very naughty, he purred, “Oh, and where would that be?!”

So I fired back, “Wouldn’t you like to know!”

And of course, he said, “Oh MYYYY!” with perfect timing.

We both laughed and he went off to get his stuff to leave.  Then a few seconds later, as he was passing on his way out with a small entourage, we said goodbyes and I called out after him, “You BEHAVE, George!” He left with that delightful guffaw ringing in the Austin air.

And that’s my George Takei story. I don’t think it could have gone any more perfectly.

I made this gentleman sing to me and we kinda flirted. #360sxsw #sxsw

 

Shots

I don’t know what to add since last time about Statesman Shots, the podcast that Tolly Moseley and I started, except to say that I’m so in love with the show it’s really become my favorite thing about my job right now and the thing I look forward to working on most every week.

It’s still a baby podcast, a small show with a small audience as it’s only a few months old. We’re cheap; we haven’t spent much money at all on the show (just time and staff resources and some freelance money) and there’s been no marketing of it at all outside of our editorial department.

That makes me a little nervous, but I also know that we’re putting out a really great show every week and that the people who have found it and have listened to it (or watched the videos) seem to get what we’re doing and enjoy it.

I think it’s hard to convey, especially over social media and other short-form places, how much we’re packing into each episode, how wide-ranging the discussions are and how much ground we cover in about an hour.

My big new year’s thing for 2014 was “Outside,” of getting out of my head and into the world a little more.

I still spend a lot of time at home and in the office, but with “Shots” I feel a lot more connected to the community and for an hour each week (and during all the prep time and post-recording discussion that goes on), I feel like I’m getting to put out there stuff that’s on my mind and to connect with smart, entertaining people. It’s a real gift and I can only hope that the love and care we’re putting into it and the fun we’re having comes across and transfers well.

Here’s all the episodes we’ve done since last time I blogged, two long months ago, with a little behind the scenes.

Episode 7: Dale Roe on Austin comedy  — We didn’t have any videos this week because of a massive memory card failure, but it was still a great pre-SXSW episode with a lot of discussion about comedy. And I got to do my Hank Hill voice.

Alyssa Vidales, who shoots and records our stuff and edits it beautifully, took this photo:

Episode 8 with Peter Blackstock and guest co-host Addie Broyles — I had to miss this recording because of SXSW, but Tolly did a great job taking the reigns with fill-in co-host Addie Broyles to talk about SXSW Music, robots and the future of food. Little did we know how crazy SXSW Music would actually be.

Episode 9 with Statesman music/entertainment editor Sharon Chapman — Sharon is incredibly busy and had to have been super exhausted right after SXSW Music weekend when we recorded, but she was kind enough to join us to talk about the tragic accident that happened that weekend. It was a very heavy topic to discuss, but Sharon was a great guest and her pop culture savvy is evident through the whole episode.

Episode 10 with fitness writer Pam LeBlanc — This turned out to be a really fun one. Pam is one of those people who completely loves her job and her enthusiasm for getting out there and trying new things and experiencing what Central Texas has to offer is inspiring. We recorded this right as I was deciding to take up a new personal training program that has turned out really well. I was getting really tired of feeling like my body and my lack of exercise were getting out of control. I loved the discussions we had about camps in this episode.

Episode 11 with happiness expert (and UT McCombs School of business professor) Raj Raghunathan — this was our first big risk in having on a guest we’d never actually met before. We went back and forth on whether this was a good idea and it turned out great. Two things convinced us we should try it: we couldn’t resist the idea of having a happiness expert speak with us and Prof. Raghunathan’s videos online showed he was a good speaker with personality who wouldn’t freeze up on camera. He was a really entertaining guest.

Episode 12 with Brian Gaar — It would probably embarrass Brian to hear this, but we were actually very nervous about it because Brian is becoming a very successful and respected stand-up comic and Twitter superstar. We began to think there was no way he’d bother with our goofy podcast even though I’ve known him as the guy in the newsroom I geek out with over new Nintendo releases. So we held off on asking him on for a while because of this. Moontower Comedy Fest presented a good opportunity and Brian didn’t hesitate for a moment to say yes. Once we knew he was on board, we knew he’s be great on the show and he did not disappoint. I finally got to see Brian perform live and it was a huge treat. He has a new comedy album you should check out.

And a post I wrote about the addictive games 2048 and Threes!

Episode 13 with Matthew Odam on Austin food culture — This is another one we held off on for a while, but mostly for logistics. As a restaurant critic, Matthew doesn’t prominently show his face in print or on video, living in a state of pseudo-anonymity on the public scene. Since we shoot video with each episode, we had to figure out how to have him on without showing his face. We ended up shooting him from over the shoulder but at one point, we even considered pixellating him. In the end, we thought it would be too distracting to do it that way. I love the “Name Tolly’s Baby” segment, which is one of the first videos I feel really gelled visually with what we do, along with the one about dream desks.

Episode 14 with Nancy Flores on several Latino entertainment festivals and other topics — Nancy was proposed as a guest from the very beginning and said she was interested, so it was just a matter of figuring out the best week to have her come in. With two big Latin-American-themed festivals coming up, the timing was good. Also, and this is delicate to discuss, I feel strongly we need to have a pretty diverse roster of guests on the show and up to this point we hadn’t discussed at all much related to being Latino in Austin. (And I take the blame for that since it’s not something I don’t always feel qualified to discuss as I float between being connected/disconnected to that part of my cultural makeup). (The first video also tells the story of my bummer birthday flat tire fiasco.)

 

Episode 15 with screenwriter and blogger Lauren Modery on hipsterism and more — this was another case of a news event taking over the discussion and working out, timing-wise. A well-known local blogger died in a pedestrian/drunk driving accident and it was someone Lauren knew. We were able to take up a discussion that had been happening all weekend on Twitter and in local blogs and try to put it in a larger context. On a story I worked on about podcasts, I had watched Lauren get interviewed, so it was in the back of my mind that we should have a different conversation than the one she’d already had with someone else.

Episode 16 with nonprofits guru (and fun pal) David J. Neff — Tolly and I both know and have worked with David on stuff and knew he would get our vibe quickly and keep up. I give David a hard time online a lot because he’s silly that way, but he’s actually one of the smartest, get-shit-done do-gooders I know in Austin. Whenever I feel a social group needs to get together for something, Dave is always near the top of my invite list. Shots was no exception. Of all the videos we’ve done, I think the zombie survival one below is my favorite so far.

A post I did about one of my picks on “A Toast,” the TV show Silicon Valley’s first five episodes.

And lastly, a new “MasterGIF Theatre” related to the Star Wars stuff we did.

If you’re not into all these videos and don’t want to go through all the blog entries, you can grab the audio of these episodes directly from iTunes and/or SoundCloud. Please subscribe, please download, please rate the show. We really need your support!

We’re also on Facebook and Twitter, ready to talk with you about pretty much anything.

Space Monkeys

Monkeys discuss TVOur monkeys took a multi-week hiatus during and after South by Southwest as both Pablo and I were so busy in March. Then we got back on track, but decided, two months later, to take a real official break until early July. So here are the last comics till then!

The monkeys returned after SXSW with a comic about Titanfall, which we had both been playing. We actually worked up a SXSW-related comic, but by the time it would have been finished, too much time had passed and it seemed like it wasn’t going to work.

There was also a comic based on the shitstorm that followed the finale of How I Met Your Mother. I’m not exaggerating. I believe actual shit flew in the air in a storm of bad feelings from fans.

We did a comic about scholarships, donors and kidneys. It all ties together neatly!

The General got himself into a scrape by saying, “Oh, HAIL no!” So don’t do that.

Bobbo and Meany tried Google Glass, with disastrous results.

And Bobbo played a videogame about sloths. He found he liked it a lot.

Expect the comic to return around July 10.

 

Other random stuff

A few more random things.

Here’s a photo I love of the girls from a month or two ago:

Rides.

 

 

This was taken around midnight as my birthday was starting when I went to see Wild Child at Emo’s. Fantastic show.

 

Watching Wild Child perform as my birthday rolls in. Doing this one right.

 

Ralph Barrera and I accepting Barbara Jordan Media Awards for a story we worked on with Tina Phan, a profile of artist Francis Tsai.

 

At the Barbara Jordan Awards with Ralph Barrera. Also winning: Tina Phan!

Probably my favorite picture of the girls right now:

Yesterday, Easter part 1

And one more, how I felt after SXSW concluded, taken at the Museum of the Weird, on a day when I get to hang out with Rob and Schuyler, two of my favorite people.

Me, when #SXSW is over. #360sxsw

Super resemblance, right?

There’s more, there’s always so much more, but I’ve been working on this blog entry for two months, the longest I’ve ever let one slide, and it’s time to put it to bed and, I hope, come back more often and much shorter.

Sorry for so much, but it was a pretty eventful two months, right? I always feel like I should be doing more even when the evidence suggests I’m already dong way too much, and I’ve been in one of those strange moods pretty much this whole year, trying to decide on one more thing I could be doing that would be fun and challenging and special.  I’m still working on last year’s thing and trying to get that out somehow, but I don’t want to just stall and not move forward. I have an idea or two and now that this blog post is done, don’t really have an excuse not to tackle it.

That’s probably why it took two months. Nothing like working hard as a means of procrastination.

See you soon.

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