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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").

Saturday, June 24, 2017

My First (and Ideally Last) Political Cartoon

I'm not normally a political person. Politics are usually something I like to try to avoid - in fact, I was something of a draft dodger this past year when local campaign offices kept calling me up to go out and ring doorbells with them: I politely declined each time, but in all honesty, I had no intention of wasting my time, or other people's time, making a nuisance of myself by randomly ringing people's doorbells to talk politics with strangers I don't even know and who could probably care less about the candidate I've been roped into campaigning for (and mainly because I don't even know who any of these candidates are either)!

That being said, however, the political landscape has really been frustrating me these past several months, so what's a good way to relieve frustration? Why, art of course! I must admit that I have had a few ideas for political cartoons based on observations I've had over these past several months, but I've been really cautious about doing them . . . as I said, politics are not me, and I kind of felt like doing political cartoons would perhaps cheapen myself quite a bit (not that I'm not already cheap). Not to mention, while I could certainly take a swipe at a certain side of the political spectrum that's really giving the red, white, and blue a black eye, I felt that wouldn't be fair to any friends, loved ones, followers, fans, what have you that may actually be on that side of the political spectrum.

Then, I was hit with a realization: what's one thing that both sides of the aisle have been complaining about for a long, long time? The media! And what's one thing that both sides of the aisle have been throwing around almost carelessly for a long. long time? Accusations of fake news! Rewind back to the 1980s: THE GREAT SPACE COASTER was a hit in syndication, and who doesn't remember Gary Gnu and his famous "No G'News is Good G'News Show"? Gary always closed his no-g'newscasts with his catchphrase, "No g'news is good g'news with Gary Gnu!" It struck me how not only has what Gary been saying for over thirty years stood the test of time, but it rings even more true today when people on all sides complain about so-called fake news being reported by the so-called lying media. With that, I tried my hand at my first political cartoon, that doesn't take sides, and really drives home Gary's point:
I also shared this with Jim Martin, co-creator of THE GREAT SPACE COASTER (and performer of Gary Gnu), and I'm thrilled to say that he loved it so much that he shared it on their official Facebook page as well.

Oh, Gary Gnu; decades ahead of his time.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

What the Hell, FCC?

This isn't my first time writing about the FCC, and in fact, this isn't my second time either, but what absolutely floors me is that for an organization that seemingly doesn't do its job, it sure was quick to jump on something a lot less severe than most of what's seen on television today.

When I last wrote about the FCC, it was regarding the excessive use of inappropriate, raunchy, and vulgar content that's seen on television in this day and age, where reckless, selfish, and irresponsible sexual behavior is somehow the main focus point of any TV series today - isn't it the FCC's job to monitor and control this kind of content? Evidently now, considering when I contacted them about this inquiry, they just simply denied responsibility and said that had no control over what we see, that it's up to individual networks to decide what to broadcast.

If that's the case, then why do we even have the FCC if it doesn't do anything? Well, apparently, it does whenever Donald Trump is involved:
So the entire Republican party and Donald Trump are upset about Stephen Colbert's opening monologue from his show (more specifically toward the end, where he uses some colorful language), and so now, the FCC is actually investigating Colbert as a result. You know what's ironic? The last time I wrote about the FCC, I actually used a graphic of Colbert doing a head-desk:

So, let me get this straight: the Federal Communications Commission's job is to monitor and control the content we see and hear on television . . . and apparently, when it comes to excessive sexual content, that's none of their concern . . . but when somebody says something about Donald Trump, suddenly they snap to attention and launch a full-blown investigation? What in the name of all that is holy. . . .?

All kidding aside, if this isn't evidence that America is turning into a dictatorship, I don't know what is. For eight years, Obama dealt with this kind of criticism heaped on him all the time by the exact same people who are crying over Colbert's monologue, but you know what? Obama would simply brush it all off, because he happened to possess charactertistics that Trump never did and never will: maturity, integrity, class, thick skin, and the ability to take the high road like a bigger man. Trump on the other hand? He flocks to Twitter and cries like a little man baby and declares you public enemy number one if you say anything that hurts his delicate feelings. And heck, if it was Obama that Colbert was joking about in this monologue, I guarantee you there'd be no FCC investigation, and instead of backlash, the public would be praising him for telling it like it is (which is essentially what he's doing, except that it's Trump, so that means he did a bad thing).

If nothing else, Trump does this exact same thing to people all the time - and this was long before he even started running for Office - so, in a sense, Colbert's kind of giving him a taste of his own medicine, but this just proves that while Trump can dish it out, he sure can't take it himself.

The only way that can best sum this all up are the pearls of wisdom from Nostalgia Critic:

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!

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):