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The other side of the desk

Syllabus? Check
PowerPoint Presentation? Check
Crisply ironed shirt and tie? Check

Yep, looks like I'm ready for the first day of school. The past few days I've watched as weepy parents dislodge my future students and the campus grows from ghost town to busy community. Today I helped a couple of spastic freshmen find a building and they called me sir...so I guess the beard is working.

Most of my students are freshmen, which means many of them will be just as nervous as I am when I walk through that door on Monday. I thought being young was going to be an issue, but as an older professor told me last week, my youth makes me more relatable.

I didn't realize how far removed I was from the college world until we had some of my wife's old c1assmates stay with us a few days before the dorms opened. Their night started at 9:30, ours ended at 10:00. They went to eat downtown; we cooked a meal at home. They talked about drama (nonstop!); we talked about our offices. As tame as my life might sound, I wasn't surprised at all to find that I didn't miss theirs. Don't get me wrong; my years spent in college/grad school were some of the best in my life, but I think I'm going to like being on the other side of the desk more. In a few days they will have homework, tests, quizzes, projects, and more, while I'll have all the free time in the world (after 5:00 of course), which means I won't dread school near as much as I used to.

So anyone else out there going back to school?

Yeah Write's Summer Reading Reviews

Buckle up kids; you're in for a long ride...

While it may seem that my life has been consumed with getting this webcomic started, I have done a few other things this summer. As a bookaholic, I try to make sure I'm reading something at all times. Though I didn't get to read as much as I wanted, I did manage to finish a few good books. I read a little bit of everything this summer, so if you're at all interested in reading, take a look.

I, Lucifer by Glen Duncan

lucifer

What it's about: God has decided to give Lucifer a shot at getting back into heaven. All he has to do is live a blameless month as a human and resist the temptations he has created.

What I thought: I guess it shouldn't have surprised me that Lucifer was as vulgar as he was, but it did. This is not a tale for the weak of faith. Duncan is at his best when he visits stories from the Bible from Satan's perspective. The temptation of Christ, the crucifixion, and the Garden of Eden are all recreated with an evil twist. Outside of the story remixes, and a few high points where the devil waxes philosophical on the ideas of temptation, God's existence, and sin, the rest of the book is a bit scatterbrained. Duncan tries to make the devil a neurotic mess with a writing sty1e to match, but sometimes it's just too random to follow. Still, it's a quick read and if you enjoyed C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters, and you can stomach Duncan's sometimes-crude language, you'll probably enjoy this. B-

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon

Chabon

What it's about: Cousins Sammy Clay and Joe Kavalier rise to fame in the comic book boom of the 1940s.

What I thought: Probably one of the best books I read this summer. Chabon is a gifted writer. Every sentence feels like it was specially crafted for your enjoyment. Though the main plot is the comic book business they start, the real drama is found in the internal struggle Joe faces. He is reluctant to give into the success of his new life in America while his family is suffering in Nazi-controlled Prague. This is a beautiful book that has a bit of something for everyone. Action, humor, love, suspense, and mystery are all blended together in a wonderful story filled with unforgettable characters. A

Cell by Stephen King

cell

What it's about: Cell phones turn everybody into crazy zombies. A group of travelers treks through Maine in attempt to put an end to the "phoners." Blood, gore, and action ensue.

What I thought: King breathes new life into the tired zombie genre by giving the "phoners" a flock mentality and weird techno tendencies; they stick together, have to recharge at night, and can enter your dreams. Though the incident that turns people to zombies seems to be a massive nationwide crisis, King keeps it personal and never takes you away from his little group of survivors, which helps you get to know the characters, but also diminishes the scale of the epidemic. It's not going to win a Pulitzer, but Cell is definitely an entertaining read. B

Next by Michael Crichton

next

What it's about: Crichton weaves fact and fiction to tell a cautionary tale of the state of genetic research. Crazy diseases, lawsuits involving ownership of genes, and monkey/human hybrids are all thrown into the mix.

What I thought: At first, I thought this was going to be a story like Lost or Heroes, where a bunch of random people are all tied together. The first several chapters don't seem to connect, each one introduces new characters and subplots and I kept waiting for the stories to converge. Unfortunately, many of the characters never meet and most of the plots slowly peter out. In the end, you get a bunch of disjointed stories on the dangers of genetic experiments followed by a lengthy note from the author about the state of the genetic industry. It's an interesting read, but don't expect too much from it. C

A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore

moore

What it's about: Pawnshop owner Charlie Asher is a normal guy with a normal life, until people start dropping dead around him. Shortly after losing his wife, Charlie learns that he has a new employer, the one and only Death. Now he has to help people move to the next life or face the forces of darkness.

What I thought: This book has a very Betelgeuse/Tim Burton kind of vibe. Despite its dark subject manner, the story remains lighthearted and comical. Moore has a knack for sticking normal people in bizarre (and often hilarious) situations. The characters are memorable and their dialogue is sharp and witty. A great read if you're in the mood for a little dark comedy. A

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J,K, Rowling

rowling

What it's about: Do I really need to tell you what it's about? It's the conclusion the epic Potter franchise, the pop-culture phenomenon of this generation. Harry learns about Dumbledore's questionable past, tests his relationships with Ron and Hermoine, and of course, faces Voldemort for the last time.

What I thought: Simply amazing. I used to be a Potter naysayer, refusing to give into the hype, but after a friend convinced me to read the first book, I fell in love and read the next five books in two weeks. So unlike other Potterphiles, I only had about a year of anticipation cooking for this book, not a lifetime. Thankfully, this book didn't disappoint. It managed to be completely different from the other books, while staying true to the flow of the series. Just about every sub plot was given a tidy conclusion, and the final battle at Hogwarts may have been the most exciting moment in the entire series. There are too many great things to list about this book (Snape's true intentions, Dumbledore's past, the Hallows, the many narrow escapes, the wonderful epilogue, etc.). If I had to describe this book in one word, it would be "satisfying." A+

Mass Effect: Revelation by Drew Karpshyn

mass

What it's about: The prequel to the sure-to-be-hit Bioware RPG, Mass Effect: Revelation follows Alliance officer David Anderson as he tries to track down the person responsible for destroying an Alliance research base.

What I thought:(taken from an earlier blog post) I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was a quick and easy read, and though the story isn't amazing, it serves its purpose. It's sort of like a made-for-TV movie; it was fast and entertaining, and didn't ask for too much of a commitment (that is until the game comes out) The best thing about it is probably the set up for the game. Karpshyn does a remarkable job of dispensing a massive amount of information without giving up the relentless pace. There's a ton of back-story in the book that sets up the inter-species tension of the game. Fortunately, the delivery of all that info is never boring. Rather the predicament humanity finds itself in as it rapidly expands and tries to find its role in the galaxy is a fresh take on a familiar concept. If you have even the slightest interest in the upcoming game (and how could you not?) I recommend giving this book a read. B

Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore

moore

What it's about: Narrated by a resurrected Levi who is called Biff, Lamb fills in the missing years of Jesus' (or Joshua as Biff calls him) life. From studying under Chinese monks and rescuing children from a sacrificial ceremony in India, to his last moments on the cross, Lamb is a thoughtful and humorous take on the story of the messiah.

What I thought: Once again, not a book for the weak of faith, this book could offend some strict conservatives. If you don't count yourself in that group, go pick this book up. Moore is remarkably accurate with his descriptions of ancient cultures and if you're familiar with the Bible, you'll likely enjoy the retelling of some of the gospel stories from the inside. It's a hilarious, touching, tragic, respectful rendition of the story never told. A

I think I might have read another book or two this summer but if I did, they were too forgettable to mention. Besides, if you've read this far you probably could have finished I, Lucifer and Mass Effect: Revelation by now. So get to reading.

Learning to Swim

Well I registered for my webcomic site but it's going to take at least a week before it's ready. In the meantime I thought I'd give you guys an update.

The comic is called "Learning to Swim" (thanks to IGDetail for the title, congratulations for your imaginative efforts, you win...the satisfaction of knowing you came up with the name for my webcomic :)).

title

To answer a question from my last blog, this will usually be a gag a day strip, though I do have some story arcs floating around in my head and plan on implementing them in the future. The strip stars Parker White and his roommate Jack Owens.

parker

Parker is a young rookie communication professor at the local university. He teaches a few speech cl@sses and a small group interaction cl@ss. He met Jack when they were kids both hoping to someday become professional wrestlers. Sadly, their dreams of pile-driving jabronies didn't work out, so Parker stuck with his natural academic talents and hit the cl@ssroom. When he's not teaching, he's reading a book or playing video games. Despite his job, Parker is a bit of a recluse, he gets his share of exciting adventures through the characters in his books and video games, and his roommate.

title

Jack Owens is an office temp/Navy SEAL in training. After their pro wrestling fantasy crumbled, Jack floated around doing odd jobs for a couple of years. After watching Parker play through the Splinter Cell series and seeing The Guardian (fourteen times), Jack was convinced his mission in life was to become a Navy SEAL. Unfortunately, getting into the SEALs is hard, and things aren't moving as quickly as Jack thought they would. To fill the time between training sessions, Jack took a job at a temp agency. He is currently working for Kotex as a copy writer.

Learning to Swim follows Jack and Parker as they struggle to stay afloat in their very different occupations. The strip will be updated twice a week (usually Monday and Friday) and will vary in panel length. As soon as the site gets finished I'll post a link for those that want to check it out. Until then, I'll post any new comics here so check back often.

Starting a webcomic

Well I got my friend on board and he's even up for writing a few strips with me. Unfortunately we're lacking a few key ingredients. First, we need a name for the strip ("College professor and office temp/Navy SEAL in training" is a bit too long :P) Second, we need to host it. I was going to use blogspot, but it's not exactly comic friendly. So I did some research and it looks like Comic Genesis is the place to go. The only thing keeping me from signing up there (besides the lack of a name) is the fact that Comic Genesis requries some HTML skills. I took a web design class in college but I only passed it because I swiped the CSS off of some other page and changed it to fit my own needs. Luckily, my partner in crime has worked in web design the past few years (before the whole SEAL thing) and he's willing to help me design something. Nobody is going to want to read our strip if the site looks like butt. So, in the meantime, I'll be posting some of the comics here. When I do finally get the site up and running I'll post a link to it. Right now I'm going to try to update the strip on Mondays and Fridays. I had this one done Monday, but I haven't had the chance to post it yet...

comic

This time the picture is linked, so click it to view the full image.

In other news...

-EA owns a little more of Ubisoft. Bad news for everyone, well except for females. Bad move Ubisoft.

-DS gets a slider thingamajiggy. Uhh...cool?

-360 Pro's go HDMI. If my high def TV had an HDMI hook up I'd be mad, but my games look good enough in 1080i.

-Saw the Simpson's movie. You do in fact see Bart's animated doodle--shocking, yet hilarious.

-Playing through GRAW2. Or should I say GRAW 1.2?

-My wife and I made the decision to get a Macbook Pro with Leopard for Christmas. It's going to be awesome.

-I rented Hot Fuzz last night but haven't watched it. How useless is that? I just typed that I haven't watched a movie yet...

-I'm going to the chiropractor today. I injured my back about a month ago and it hurts to stand up straight. I'm tired of walking around like Montgomery Burns.

-It's 105 degrees today in Arkansas. Ughhhh.

Ok folks. I'll post something more meaningful soon. I've got a ton of work to do right now. School starts in a week and I only have lesson plans up to the first test so I need to be making those. I've been meaning to write a review for TMNT, NBA Street Homecourt and Transformers. If I find some time this weekend I'll do those, this new profile needs some reviews.

A book review, a comic and a complaint

Book Review

MassEffect

Why is it that I'm on this video game website where I spend more time than I should, and I'm still a bit ashamed to admit that I read a book based on a game? My literary shame aside, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was a quick and easy read, and though the story isn't amazing, it serves its purpose. It's sort of like a made-for-TV movie; it was fast and entertaining, and didn't ask for too much of a commitment (that is until the game comes out).

The best thing about it is probably the set up for the game. Karpshyn does a remarkable job of dispensing a massive amount of information without giving up the relentless pace. There's a ton of back story in the book that sets up the inter-species tension of the game. Fortunately, the delivery of all that info is never boring. Rather the predicament humanity finds itself in as it rapidly expands and tries to find its role in the galaxy is a fresh take on a familiar concept. If you have even the slightest interest in the upcoming game (and how could you not?) I recommend giving this book a read. You can knock it out in a weekend, and gain some insight into the fascinating world of Bioware's next hit.

Comic

webcomic

right click the image and select "View Image" to, you kow, view the image.

This is my first multi-panel, mutli-character comic. Depending on his reaction, my friend may become a permanent presence in the web comic. [EDIT This one wasn't really meant to be funny. I made it to sell my friend on the idea of letting me base a character off of him] We met when we were 13, both sharing a dream of making movies or doing something creative. We would spend our time writing skits and filming awful movies with my little brother's toys. Now ten years later, we live states apart but keep in touch daily through facebook. This comic is a word for word discussion we had online. We both still have that creative dream so I thought I might sign him on as a writer or contributor. I figured we could base it off our real lives. I'm a young college professor and magazine editor, while he is an office worker training to become a Navy SEAL (no joke), we're a regular odd couple. I'm hoping to start a joint blog because we have an awesome comedic relationship, it just might have to wait till after his training is complete.

Complaint

office

This Monday I have to attend an office retreat. I'm not looking forward to it. My job is bittersweet, because I love what I do, but hate where I work. With the exception of one colleague (she is the Pam to my Jim...except we aren't in love, I'm married), my office is a lot like The Office, except not funny, at all. I would gladly take Michael Scott over my boss, a self-proclaimed "visionary." He is constantly thinking of new ideas, which wouldn't be a bad thing if he would give his old ideas time to develop. Instead we spend every meeting listening to him talk on and on about new schemes and new contacts (he once said he had contacts to Bono and nearly made us miss a deadline because he thought we would get an interview...Bono has interviewed with a total of three American magazines in his career, why would he come to us, a growing publication with barely 10,000 readers? His contact turned out to be an intern at one of Bono's lobbyist organizations...yeeeah). On top of my boss I've got to deal with the lazy guy in the office next to me (who can only be described as lumpy) and hope he doesn't try to pass off another job to me. I've also got an old lady that handles our senior outreach. My aforementioned "Pam" and I once made this colleague cry because she didn't agree with our radical young ideas. Now every meeting is tenser than a tight-rope walk.

I usually spend most meetings doodling, and now that I have this new web comic I guess I can sketch out some new ideas. So while you are cruising the internet on Monday, think of me and send me sympathetic thoughts.

Mythology, a gaming gold mine

I just read the Q&A on the Beowulf game and it looks like it could be fun. I'm a bit wary because it's a license game, but I definitely like that they are going back to the source material. Ancient mythology is a gaming gold mine, and I've been waiting for something to kick-start the gold rush.

I've always had an interest in mythology. The stories and archetypes are timeless, and it's amazing to see how humanity connects through the collective unconscious to create myths that are relatable across thousands of years. While I was in a grad school, I took a course in mythology and folklore and I got to read hundreds of stories from dozens of cultures. I've been patiently waiting for games and movies to take advantage of the enduring tales from centuries ago, but it hasn't caught on like I hoped.

It amazes me that Hollywood, and to a lesser extent the game industry, is going crazy for the next big remake or reboot of tired franchises of decades past, when there are a wealth of stories in mythology waiting to be used. Instead of developing yet another game in the Star Wars universe, why not create a new IP set in the rich universe of Hindu mythology?

hindu myth

Mythology is developer friendly. You won't have to hire a fact checker to make sure your game hero is using the right type of imperial blaster in a game about ancient mythology. That's because ancient mythology is notorious for its lack of detail. Other than basic character profiles and motivations, they don't describe much in terms of setting or physical features. This works both in the favor of the myth-to keep it timeless and make it applicable to civilizations then and now-and the developers, because it gives plenty of room for creativity. Staying within the parameters of a mythological universe has to be far easier than trying to make a new game set in Gotham city. Sadly, it's Gotham city that brings in the bucks.

When most people (in America at least) think of mythology they immediately go to the tales of the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations. As these stories are the most familiar, it makes sense that developers are going after them first. God of War, as wildly inaccurate as it is, is a fantastic series in terms of immersion into the mythical world of the Greeks. The upcoming game based on Jason and the Argonauts looks to be a bit more accurate and just as action packed. These are great starts, and I hope that the success of these games will encourage others to branch out into other cultures.

argonauts

Don't get me wrong, I love the ancient Greeks as much as the next guy, but it would be nice to see something based off a lesser-known mythology. The same goes for Gaelic and Norse mythology. Thanks to Lord of The Rings and World of Warcraft, the whole elf/mage/warrior thing has been done to death. How about a game based on the Mahabharata? Arjuna would be the coolest game protagonist since the God of War himself; he's like a nobler more heroic Kratos, and he has four awesome brothers (the myth conveniently separated them into cl@sses like archer, horseman, swordsman, etc.,) so developers can figure in the growing co-op trend.

Or how about something on American tall tales like Pecos Bill and Paul Bunyan? Imagine a game that let you ride tornados and use rattlesnakes as whips. Is anyone else seeing the potential?

pecos bill

If movies and games are going to do remakes, why not do something people are less familiar with? Sure Transformers was cool, but so is the story of the Pandava brothers. I liked Batman Begins a lot, but I would rather see a well-done movie on Samson (yes the stories in the Bible are myth, not because they aren't true, but because they follow the same patterns as other myths, i.e. the involvement of supernatural beings, explanations of natural phenomena and human behavior). You've got a man with ridiculous strength and a weakness for pretty girls. The love of a woman causes his downfall, but he gets revenge in the end. You can't tell me that wouldn't be a cool movie or game.

Samson

I know to some cultures, messing with their myths is a dangerous thing. Some of these ancient stories are considered sacred. But I think as long as they are done with respect, and they don't cross the line (we don't need a crucifixion game), some entertaining and educational movies and games could be made. Look what Okami did with Japanese myth. I've yet to play the game, but from what I've seen it looks fantastic. It's a shame it passed under the radar of most gamers.

I'll be keeping my eye on Jason and the Argonauts, Beowulf and the God of War series. These titles seem high profile enough to catch gamers' short attention spans, and if they do well, we might be lucky enough to see more titles like Okami go mainstream. Until then, I highly recommend visiting a local library or the cultural section of Barnes & Noble and checking out some ancient mythology anthologies. Some of them are even updated and written in today's language, which makes stories like those found in Scandinavian myth much easier to digest.

Personally, I'm taking advantage of the gold mine by writing a book using characters from a well-known myth and weaving my own story that connects the gaps in the narrative. It's similar to what Margaret George did with Helen of Troy. It won't be done for at least another year, but I hope when it is finally published; it will find a home with people like me, waiting for mythology to stake its claim in mainstream entertainment.

What's in a name?

I've thought long and hard about doing this. Most on Gamespot know me as apwc, which I've always hated. See back in 2003 I created my profile on GS only to get the membership benefits. I didn't plan on writing a blog or posting in the forums. Years later my wife encouraged me to start blogging so I used my GS blog, despite the fact that I hated the name. Apwc doesn't even really mean anything. My preferred screen name has always been Yeah Write. It perfectly captures my love for writing and my sarcastic (yet lovable:P) nature. I should have changed earlier, before I got all those emblems, levels and friends, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. I was too in love with the stats.

Finally, during some down time at work, I created this profile just in case I decided to change. I think I might just bite the bullet and switch profiles. My blog has seen more traffic lately than it used to, so I need to make the change before I get too many readers. I'll give apwc another week or so I guess. I'll be posting on my apwc blog soon to let everyone know to include me on their friends list. It's the same Austin, just a different name. If you've happened across this before seeing apwc, take a look at my alias and enjoy!