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Joseph Scarbrough launched what he called "The Scarblog" as a way of cataloging his work over the years, as well as going into greater detail of things on his mind (known as "Unfinished Thoughts").

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

My Unfinished Thoughts on Julia

Sesame Street's newest resident
SESAME STREET has always managed to pull off Very Special Episodes that address rather heavy, sensitive, or true-to-life subjects in ways that make it easy for its preschool audience to grasp and comprehend. In 1983, they tackled the subject of Mr. Hooper's death after the passing of cast member Will Lee; in 2001, we saw a week-long story arc involving the destruction and rebuilding of Big Bird's nest after a hurricane blows through - which continues to be rebroadcast today in the wake of particularly devastating hurricanes such as Katrina or Sandy; in 2002, Hooper's Store caught fire in response to the September 11 terrorist attacks; and lest we forget the series of TALK, LISTEN, CONNECT and LITTLE CHILDREN, BIG CHALLENGES videos that cover such topics as parents in prison, parents in the military, and food pantries. I had no doubts that the introduction of the street's newest resident would be handled well, and it was. However, Julia's origins can be traced quite a ways back before we got to see her as a full-fledged Muppet on our screens. . . .

Lexi, Julia's ancestor
Several years ago, Sesame fan Alexandra created a fan-character named Lexi, an adorable and playful little Muppet girl who enjoys drawing, singing, dancing, and being a detective much like her hero, Sherlock Hemlock. Lexi also happens to have Asperger's Syndrome, a form of Mild Autism, of which Alexandra also has; taking notice of SESAME STREET's lack of Autism Awareness, she contacted Sesame Workshop about the possibility of incorporating Lexi into the show as an actual Muppet character to help bring more awareness of Autism to the world's most famous street, and to help educate kids more about what Autism is, and how it's dealt with by those who have it, and those who know people who have it, which resulted in the following:

For legal reasons, Lexi could not actually be used in Sesame material, however, after taking initiative, a new character was eventually developed specifically to do just as Alexandra wrote about: to help teach children about Autism and to understand more about it and symptoms they may see in Autistic kids. Enter Julia!
http://autism.sesamestreet.org/storybook-we-are-amazing/

Julia was initially created for exclusive web material, such as the above-linked online storybook, WE'RE AMAZING, 1,2,3! Through the storybook, we learn that Julia likes to do a lot of the same things as her friend Elmo, just a little differently; we also learn that she may not respond to someone right away, and that it helps to repeat yourself a few times. We also see some of the symptoms often associated with Autism, such as Julia's hand flapping when she's excited, or the mild panic attack she has when her sensitive ears hear sounds that bother her. The online storybook and other web material featuring Julia went over well enough that it only made sense that she would eventually become an actual Muppet on the show, and it finally happened:

It's interesting that SESAME STREET hasn't tried doing this before now, considering other children's shows out there have incorporated such characters long ago, with ARTHUR being a good example. ARTHUR has three prominent disabled characters that are featured on the show on a recurring basis: Marina Datillo, an independent blind girl; Lydia Fox, a wheelchair-bound girl who excels at basketball; and Carl Gould, a train aficionado with Asperger's. Each of these characters are depicted in ways that shows that despite having limitations due to their respective disabilities, they are still able to do things for themselves and are not at all helpless - in short, they can pretty much do whatever their friends can, just differently. In fact, when speaking of Julia's Autism, it's explained that she just does things, "In a Julia sort of way." Julia's debut episode aired on both PBS and HBO April 10, 2017, but for the time being, it is available for viewing on YouTube . . . so rather than me typing up a summary, you can just see it for yourself:

There really are no words for me to describe just how precious this episode is. As always, SESAME STREET handled the subject in an easy to understand, yet straight-forward and to-the-point manner that didn't sugar-coat or water-down the subject to the point of making it sappy or maudlin. This is why a show like SESAME STREET continues to be one of the most endearing and enduring children's shows for forty-seven seasons - despite what some naysayers or old, jaded, and cynical fuddy-duddies may say, SESAME STREET never talks down to kids, but presents their specific educational subjects with humor and heart. Through Big Bird, we learn that Julia may do things differently than other people he or we may know, but that doesn't mean that they can't be friends, and it's certainly heartwarming to see that both Big Bird and Julia are able to make new friends with each other. My personal favorite moment from the episode is Julia's case of the giggles as she sees how small Big Bird looks from up on the roof of the community center.

Again, there's really no words I can use to describe the excellent job they did - you just have to see this episode for yourself. I certainly hope that not only will Julia continue to be seen on the street, and be utilized in other ways to show just how capable she is of doing a lot of the same things as her friends, just in her own Julia sort of way, but that this may help pave the way for further Muppets with disabilities to populate the street.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Na Na Na Na Hey Hey-ey Good-bye

This is an official announcement, not an early April Fool's prank, but the real McCoy: I'm quitting. I'm giving up.

There's just nothing I can do. YouTube has done everything they can to continually kick the dog and keep the little people down . . . and I can't continue to try to fight a losing battle. It's gotten to a point now where even if you try to gain more exposure for yourself, YouTube will actually punish you for it! Just recently, I discovered a way to work around something that YouTube had done to continue to stunt the growth of smaller channels: in 2013, YouTube retired tags for small channels only (I know this for certain, because larger channels are completely unaffected by this, and continue to praise the use of tags), and as such, regardless of what specific tags you put on your uploads, they won't be picked up by the search algorithms; I can attest to this, because over time, I see more and more of my videos disappearing from search results altogether, despite what tags I've used. I discovered a way to work around this by adding tags to the description instead, and the results were phenomenal: my videos were showing up in search results again, and I know other people have tried it and gotten positive results for themselves as well.

Unfortunately, YouTube has caught onto this as well, and has decided to punish channels for doing this! They've recently updated their terms of service and community policies to including this as a no-no:
Ironically, they don't seem to be so strict with misleading or racy thumbnails

That's right: YouTube now considers this an act of spam and trying to "game" or "trick" the search algorithm to gain more views, and will actually terminate your channel for doing this!

This is just further proof that YouTube actually goes out of its way and goes to any lengths to oppress and stunt the growth of smaller channels any way it can. It seems like there should be some sort of a policy against this, but there isn't, it's just YouTube being YouTube (or, more apropos - ThemTube).

I just can't do this anymore. I've been producing content on YouTube since the tail-end of 2007, and that was back when YouTube really was YouTube, it served the exact purpose it was created for: offer a virtual platform for creators, producers, filmmakers, and other people to share their original work with the rest of the world in an easy way. Unfortunately, a majority of people used it to upload clips from already-existing TV shows, specials, movies, and as such, we pretty much abused YouTube for what it was. With that, the original creators of YouTube sold the site to Google to better maintain the control of copyrighted material being uploaded to the site . . . and since then, Google has continued to exploit YouTube for their own benefit, and the little people have suffered as a result. At the time, it seemed like YouTube was showing signs of the beginning of the end in 2009, but looking back, it's clear that 2013 was when it really took a turn for the worse: since then, they've made accessing our subscriptions as needlessly difficult as possible, they've retired tags for smaller channels (as mentioned above), they only count views from people who actually watch a video from beginning to end, and basically do everything they can to sweep smaller channels under the rug to posture bigger channels. Because of this, any kind of feedback I receive for my work and my art has taken a serious nosedive, and is now almost non-existent. Sure, in an ideal world, we all could just continue to indulge and immerse ourselves in our artistic endeavors just for the pleasure and joy of it . . . but art is also meant to be seen by other people, and it's their feedback that let's you know whether your did a good job or not. When your art is continually being hidden by higher-ups at a company that's larger than any of us, that's not only insulting to the artists, producers, filmmakers, animators, singers, and other YouTubers, but it basically makes your attempts at sharing your creativity with the rest of the world all for nought.

Yes, there are alternatives to YouTube out there, but they all have their own flaws that it's not even worth the trouble and hassle of migrating to them: Dailymotion is aware many people have migrated to them from YouTube, and have become just as bad about deleting and removing content; Veoh and Vimeo both have certain limitations in place, such as file-size and/or time limits - things YouTube has long done away with.

And this really blows, because I've improved so much since my "hey day" in the time period of 2007 through 2009: since then, I've upgraded from shooting on videotape and having limited ways of editing, to shooting full HD digital video and non-linear editing with Adobe Premiere: my work looks, sounds, and feels so much better than what how it used to back then, but unfortunately, not a lot of people know because they aren't aware of any of this, thanks to how YouTube has stunted my growth as a small channel. I just can't continue to deal with this, and I don't want to. It's especially sad knowing that there are some people out there who actually expected me to make something out of myself in this field of work, but when you lack resources, and now pretty much a platform or outlet to put your work out there, what else can be done? I really hate to disappoint people like this, because I do have more stories I want to tell, and more characters I want to bring to life, but when there's nothing I can do, there's nothing I can do.

As you may have seen on Facebook and/or Twitter, I recently announced that MORON LEAGUE 4 is happening: don't worry, it still is, it's pretty much in pre-production right now. That will be my swan song. I plan to release it closer to whenever the actual SPACE JAM sequel is released (still no release date confirmed, but some sources are saying 2019). I'll continue to post updates on Facebook and Twitter (and maybe more detailed information here on Scarblog), but once it's released, that'll be it from me.

For all of you who have been faithfully following the insane antics of Steve D'Monster, or other puppety oddball madness all of these years, and have gotten some level of enjoyment out of them, I thank you for sticking with me all this time and for your continued support. I hate to let you guys down, but in paraphrasing what I've already said, I can't continue to fight a battle that I know I'm losing - especially when the other side continue to up the ante to the point that it's out of my control.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Even Nick Park Gets It

Quite some time back, I wrote an entry about how sometimes the more flawless and pristine you can make puppets look, the more artificial they appear. As I mentioned, there's a certain warmth and edge in whatever imperfections you may see in puppets (seams, arm rods, pilly fleece, among others) that somehow makes them seem more real and believable; thoughts on the matter seem to differ among puppetry aficionados.

Interestingly enough, this doesn't just apply to puppetry, but also animation as well. Nick Park, the creator of the lovable plasticine duo Wallace & Gromit, and other animators at Aardman Animation, share the exact same mindset, that it's the imperfections that give the characters their warmth and realness - hence why whenever you watch any of the Wallace & Gromit films (or, really, any of Aardman's work), you often see the fingerprints and thumbprints on the characters. For Nick Park, it also goes beyond just a sense of warmth for the characters, but he also feels this is a way of showing a little bit of the artist themselves in their art. I don't even know if the layperson would even understand that, but I definitely think I do: as long as I've been watching and observing anything Muppets for almost all of my life, I can kind of see a little bit of Don Sahlin in the puppets he's built, or Kermit Love, or Caroly Wilcox, or Ed Christie.

To get a better understanding of what I mean, here's a collection of WALLACE & GROMIT'S CRACKING CONTRAPTIONS shorts, as well as a behind-the-scenes featurette, in which you can hear Nick Park and his fellow Aardman artists discuss this very thing (starting at the 20:14 mark):

Sunday, February 26, 2017

TECHNICOLOR DREAMS: Redux

February 22, 2015 saw the release of my most personal project to date: an experimental film that conveys how sometimes in the midst of unpleasant mental imagery, some of my most significant and better ideas are born. In a sense, TECHNICOLOR DREAMS is an alegory of one of my creative processes, in which many of my ideas come to me from strange, lucid, trippy dreams that seem to invade my sleep on a nightly basis.


So, what's this redux all about then? Well, as it turns out, the initial 2015 release of TECHNICOLOR DREAMS was met with mostly mixed reviews, and a common complaint that it received from viewers was that it felt too long, dragged out, and redundant (I've been told a former show-business professional even looked at it and didn't like it). I suppose even a personal, pet project has to be done in such a way that pleases everybody else.

With that said, I've been working on a recut of TECHNICOLOR DREAMS: shortening it and cutting out a lot of the so-called long, dragged out, and redudant moments that were apparently bogging down the special; the end results being a redux of the original special - what was once eighteen minutes has now been condensed down to thirteen. Hopefully, people might find that this is an improvement:

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Oh, the Rage of the Upper Class. . . . **UPDATE**

This is something of a follow up to my previous post, because something similar is happening again, and as a result, much of the internet is all abuzz . . . again.

So, again, these huge YouTube channels whine and belly-ache about how YouTube keeps screwing them over and how they're losing subscribers . . . even though they have millions and millions of subscribers (which, for them, is hardly a dent), and it sets off a wave of reaction across the internet. So how come whenever I try to speak out about the real struggles of smaller channels, like mine, who have been screwed over by YouTube for years (at least since 2013 for some of us), I get attacked for it? It's bad enough that YouTube has been screwing over the smaller channels, but why must we also be shunned by much of the rest of the internet for it? For these idiots, their response is always the same: if your channel is small, it's automatically because "you suck," but what they don't realize is that our channels are small because YouTube isn't doing anything to help the smaller channels grow, because they keep posturing and pandering to the huge channels with millions of subscribers, like Casey Neistat, or PewDiePie. YouTube has restricted a number of basic features (namely tags) from small channels, and will only unlock these features unless you reach a certain number of subscribers (in some cases, the minimum requirement is 100,000). Case in point: now that I've recently passed 100 subscribers (wow, that only took five years), I'm now able to add watermarks to my content without having to add my own when editing prior to upload.

But again, it's so pathetic and cringeworthy that huge channels with millions of subscribers whine about losing views, losing subscribers, and losing traffic, when their losses are insignificant compared to smaller channels: from my own experiences, I went from getting about or over a hundred views and up to ten or so comments within the first twenty-four hours of uploading a new video, to barely up to twenty views and maybe a couple of generic comments within the first week of a new upload since about 2013 or so. Much like if the wealthy lose a little money, they still have a considerable amount to certainly keep them afloat, but when working class loses a little money, that puts a real cramp on their very livelihoods. So really, there's no reason for big channels to make such a spectable about their losses when there's smaller channels out there that are truly struggling.

I was recently rewatching James Rolfe's CINEMASSACRE 200 documentary, in which although he's been filmmaking since he was a kid, he had very little options of having his work be seen until he started sharing on the internet; in his own words, he says, "I proved that the internet is the best place to get stuff seen, and is the ultimate form of exposure." Well, that may have been true during the infancy of CineMassacre, and other similar channels and companies like Channel Awesome (both of which actually put work and effort into their content, and therefore, rightly deserve their millions of subscribers), but this isn't the case anymore for much of the internet. The internet seems to be very picky-choosy about what can be accepted and successful, and in the current state of YouTube, it's become clear that the only kinds of videos that are considered worthy of attention are trend videos - this is what YouTube has pretty much been reduced to: various challenges, vlogs, reviews, top 10s, trivia, etc. There's virtually no more room for originality on YouTube, or the internet in general  . . . I can certainly remember VAMPIRE GIRL going ignored during its initial run on SmackJeeves, because readers of SmackJeeves webcomics are apparently only interested in Westernized Manga, stolen video game sprites, and LGBT comics. If James wasn't already a major internet celebrity by way of Angry Video Game Nerd, do you think any of his horror-comedy films and shorts would merit any kind of reaction on the internet today if he were entirely an unknown newcomer? I don't think so.
(Watch CINEMASSACRE 200 - much of what James did to make his earliest films is basically what I had to do in my own early days.)

I know I'm paraphasing much of what I'm saying in my previous post, but this issue really needs more addressing, and more eyes should be open to the smaller channels out there, and all of this should be able to be addressed without being attacked for it. Let's see some sympathy and some support for the smaller channels who are really struggling for a change.

UPDATE December 19, 2016
So, here it is a week and a half after the fact, and PewDiePie has pretty much admitted that deleting his channel (or, evidently, one of his channels, which I'll get to in a bit) was all just a big publicity stunt, but he adds that, "that was the whole joke." I'm sorry, but, how, exactly, is this even a joke? I honestly can't comprehend this . . . it does not compute. He went on record saying, "if your channel is dying, just pull a P.R. stunt."

First of all, how is a channel with millions and millions of subscribers a dying channel? How? As someone with a struggling small channel, I honestly cannot comprehend, compute, nor fathom how a channel that already had roughly 40,000,000+ subscribers - with millions and millions of views and likes per video, is a dying channel. It makes absolutely no sense or logic whatsoever.

Secondly, it turns out that he did not delete his main channel, but apparently a second channel that he had (and evidently, a "less popular" one at that), which begs the question why does he need more than one channel? Come to think of it, why do any of these YouTube celebrities even need more than one channel anyway? Shane Dawson has like three different channels . . . why? I don't even really see why Adam the Woo (who I did, actually, used to be a fan of) needs two different channels, either - can't he post his daily vlogs on the same channel as he posts his other videos? I don't need another channel to upload non-puppetry related videos, nor do I need a separate channel just for Steve D'Monster . . . so, what do these people need multiple channels for anyway?

Thirdly . . . I'm sorry, you're calling this a "P.R. stunt"? Uh-huh. Well, here's the thing. Smaller channels are dying, they really are, you know why? Because we can't get millions and millions of subscribers like these people have . . . I really don't have to go into details again like I have already, do I? About how YouTube has been screwing over smaller channels for years, and just continues to do so more and more with each passing year? Yeah, I already covered that; no need to go over it again. But here's the thing: if smaller channels try something like this, the reaction is accusations of shamelessly and desperately crying for attention, and that just makes matters worse.

With all that being said, I can see that reaction from people regarding PewDiePie's so-called publicity stunt is mostly negative, and most people are annoyed and ticked off by it, so I guess that says something. But still, when you have millions and millions of subscribers, views, and likes, you are not a "dying" channel. If your viewcount goes from a hundred or so views within the first twenty-four hours of a new upload to up to twenty views within the first week of a new upload, then you're a dying channel.