Thursday, January 22, 2009
Wand Day After Another is finally here!
At the frequency I create Suckermouth cartoons, a new one isn't exactly news. However, the fact that after six months of nothing but Quickies and a few new Interactives, storytime has returned to Suckermouth in the form of Wand Day After Another - Harriett Potter and the Wand of Breast Expansion Season 2, Episode 3 (whew!). And this is no random cartoon: Not only do we pick up from where Harriett Potter left off, we get an Alpha Omega crossover! And who shows up for the party? Harriett LeBeaux from Wand Season 1 and Hellen, the evil doppleganger first introduced in the Alpha Omega storyline "Hell Circa 2008." Oh, and one more very special guest also makes an appearance.
[If none of the above paragraph makes any sense to you, then you can catch up by watching some of my vids at YouTube and DailyMotion (or Suckermouth, if you want everything). (Links to my YouTube and DailyMotion channels are posted at the bottom of this blog.)]
Creating the most recent episode of Wand took six days and cost me some sleep. As I neared the end of production, I had to tweak the ending to cut a couple days off the schedule (plus it didn't end strong enough before). Despite the fact that I wish I could spend another week fine-tuning it and adding a couple extra shots or lines of dialogue, I am moderately satisfied with the end result. I hope you will be, too.
Future projects? Cards, timeline, new interactives
A couple weeks ago, I was sketching up ideas for a Suckermouth card game that you print out from your computer at home. I'm close to putting the idea into production, and the first sheet of 9 cards could be out by the end of February.
If memory serves me correctly, I once had a timeline on Suckermouth illustrating the evolution of my characters and stories. I thought between Wand episodes and the Alpha Omega storyline and Bastard Piece Theater it would sure help to have a quick reference for what happened when to whom. I've had a protoype for months, and may deploy it with the next big site redesign.
So far in 2009, I've made Quickies, a Featurette, and a Wand episode, but have yet to do an Interactive. I'd like to do something a little more involved than the usual grow-or-shrink scheme - it'd be nice to challenge myself and come through with something more like a walk-thru video game (with the same B.E. theme). Just an idea, though, I've got a million of them. It's even better when I pull one off once in a while.
YouTube and DailyMotion links:
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Re-reading my last blog is excrutiating and boring, so I'm going to focus on the creative process today.
Saying Goodbye to YouTube
Creating videos without YouTube in mind is nothing new for me, as much of my material is just too "adult" for the viral video site, even in censored form. Moving over to DailyMotion made me feel a lot less encumbered, once I wasn't sweating bullets worrying about a nip slip or a naughty-looking shadow. That false sense of freedom fell apart when DailyMotion pulled a montage of mine. Despite this, I've posted two videos to DM since, and they're still on there last I checked (and one even has a little nudity, which technically is allowed on DM).
Since Suckermouth is my bread-and-butter site, you may ask why I concern myself with YouTube or DailyMotion at all. There are many other viral video sites that could help me get the word out - most with looser standards - and even some specifically adult-oriented video sites. I would answer that YouTube and DailyMotion have a lot more viewers, they're relatively easy for everyone to use, and they have a much wider demographic than an adult video site. Of course, YouTube crushes DM in viewership, but as I'm locked out of my YouTube account, the videos that are already on there will have to suffice (I was clever enough to make a vid pointing my YouTube viewers directly to my DailyMotion channel shortly before my forced departure).
So, the bottom line: I create for Suckermouth and ignore everything else. If a vid is strong enough or clean enough (at least in part), I consider posting it to DailyMotion to drive traffic to Suckermouth. It's a far cry from what I did up until recently, making a nude version of a vid for Suckermouth and a clothed alternative for YouTube (sometimes adding a whole day to a vid's production schedule). It makes me shake my head when I think of how hard I used to try to please YouTube.
Harriett Potter and the Wand of Best Intentions
When I started creating short cartoons for an adult audience, they were all called "Quickies," because they were usually only a few seconds long. While Quickies are still my primary video product today, they are usually longer than a minute by comparison. I stumbled upon some moderate success with "Bastard Piece Theater," a series of short cartoons sometimes told with a narrator, often with limited animation, and knew I wanted to pursue some more storyline-driven content.
"Wand Day After Another" started off as a relatively painless exercise involving dialogue and transformation fantasy. I initially created two episodes, then two more, which I eventually tied together as one featurette with a related Quickie spliced in. Episode 5 (as the dialogue at the end of ep. 4 would indicate) was supposed to feature the main character, Harriett LeBeaux, at a beach doing her thing to a couple volleyball players. I got overly ambitious and tried to create in a program I wasn't very familar with, wasted a couple days on it, and we didn't see Harriett LeBeaux again until the Bastard Piece Theater: Alpha Omega storyline arc (where it was revealed that she had lost her wand on a beach).
I wanted to get back to the Wand Day After Another storyline after a while, but left Harriett in the Alpha Omega arc in favor of an "alternate universe" Harriett - Harriett Potter - as a nod to the art of parody I try to practice whenever I can. I made two episodes in the Hanna Barbera style of heavy dialogue/less movement. These were considered "Season 2" episodes, and I planned on making more. Future random attempts would fail, so I kept having to put the Wand series on the back burner over and over again.
Quickies ruled the last half of 2008, nearly all my output of the last two quarters consisting of short vids without dialogue but usually with Brethren and the Evil Empire music. I know firsthand Quickies are more popular than storyline-based content (with me doing the voices for all the characters, including the female ones) so I usually don't mind a little imbalance between the two types of films in favor of Quickies.
However, I have an obligation to continue to create stories, both to subscribers who are so inclined, and to myself, who enjoys a good story with some real creative effort behind it as opposed to something visually attractive but otherwise little more than a dirty music video.
When YouTube pulled the harmless "Harriett Potter" episode 2, I knew that another episode of the "Wand" could not die on the cutting room floor. I knew that not only was a story overdue, so was a showdown. Not a showdown between YouTube and I (although that is still playing itself out), but a showdown of the various "wand-bearers".
Harriett Potter vs. Harriett LeBeaux vs. Hellen
Harriett LeBeaux and Hellen (who now possesses Harriett L's wand) are arch rivals in the Alpha Omega storyline, so pitting them against each other was only a matter of time, and relatively simple: They exist on the same planet and have both been to Hell and apparently returned.
Harriett Potter, on the other hand, who exists in what is described as "another world" by the narrator of season 2, is trickier to get to the table. How would she come to meet the alternate version of herself (LeBeaux), and that alternate's doppleganger (Hellen)? The answer will be revealed in the next episode, currently under production.
Gone is the 2d toon style reminiscient of Adult Swim, and in its place a 3d rendering that creates a more dynamic and visually-interesting viewing experience. It could be a decent step forward for me, but as long as the new episode of Wand doesn't arrive DOA, I'll be pleased.
Now if only I could post it to YouTube...
Thursday, January 15, 2009
If the fact that Google (through Blogger) is still hosting Dirty Freedom is ho-hum (probably lots of G-critics on here), then the fact that my AdSense account has been approved by Google is slightly surprising. Does this mean that its child company YouTube is going to write me an email and apologize for taking my last video off and then reinstate it afterwards? Nope.
I don't know how the AdSense approval process works, but based on the timeline (two days in my case), it seems as though it must be a real person spot-checking the blogs pending approval. In addition to that, I labelled my blog A.O., so I was sure that would be a hindrance. Nope.
And when I look at YouTube, most of my 100+ "more adult" vids sailed effortlessly to months or even years of happy viewership before this latest one-two punch... So does that mean a few bad apples at YouTube are spoiling the whole barrel? Nope.
It's Google's and YouTube's policies, from (apparently) vague and subjective TOS to absolute lack of two-way communication that prevent appeal beyond the jerk that pulled a particular vid. If you have an idiot working for you, I should be able to go beyond him for at least a fair chance at resolving a disagreement with someone with a brain.
Like my last AdSense-focused blog, this one is rather dull, so wrapping up now would seem to be the proper thing to do.
You hear that Google/YouTube et al? The proper thing to do. You hear me?
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Let's play a game: I'll throw out an unofficial slogan and a quote, and you tell me who supplied them...
"Don't Be Evil"
"Art is for the people, not the artist"
Before I give you the answers, what do these seemingly innocent and well-intentioned credos have in common?
They're both crap, for starters, and both from power-hungry, imperialistic entities that seek(ed) to crush and remove dissenting opinion.
"Don't Be Evil" is the unofficial company slogan of Google (who, unfortunately for me, owns YouTube). Now you may ask, How could any decent person ever take offense at such a lovely pronouncement? I wish it were as simple as my band's name, which happens to contain the word "Evil", but let's not be too facetious about it: This indicates a bizarre M.O. from the world's biggest search engine and viral video site, essentially establishing a moral compass (that is subjective, restrictive, and unethical in itself) by which we all should steer if we are to be accepted on the web.
I'll come back to "Don't Be Evil," in a second, now let's see which of you went two-for-two on these quotes.
"Art is for the People, not the Artist," is one of my most hated quotes of all time. I mean, it just makes my skin crawl. If you are not an artist, you may agree with this quote; if you are an artist - or even appreciate art - you know this just isn't true. The artist is a world unto himself, arrogant and shuttered as that may sound. The artist needs to create art for the sake of art, push the limits, question authority and society, create satire and parody, make mistakes, take criticism without having to react to it, to entertain, make us think, and even make a little coin if he can. But art doesn't have to do any of that, either. The Dark Ages are over, we don't have to make excuses for art anymore.
Oh, and for those of you that agree with the quote about art being "for the People," you're agreeing with Adolf Hitler, because it's his quote.
One more Q&A game, then:
- What do Google and Adolf Hitler have in common?
- What do Dali and myself have in common?
- What does the Venus de Milo and the statue of David have in common with "Fill 'er Up?"
- Google and Hitler both stood on the wrong side of open and honest public discourse and communication, and used huge power bases to justify fascist authoritarianism as "we like regular people - delete the weirdos." Both are/were judgmental of others whom disagree with them, and neither permits two-way communication (try to get a response from YouTube, I dare ya). Both get more and more dangerous as they get more and more of what they want, restricting speech and imagery (of course, Hitler exterminated millions, so as long as we keep Google from buying a private police force, I think I can stay out of a concentration camp).
- Salvador Dali (the greatest Surrealist painter of all time, and then some) and I have enough in common to make me proud. Like myself, he was hyper-sexualized, often unable or unwilling not to instill some sexual element or imagery (however Freudian) into his art. Keep in mind, Dali was a twentieth-century artist who actually spent a short time in jail for his art - he was never convicted of a crime. But Dali pushed forward with bravado and confidence, naked women and phallic imagery aplenty. Also like me, Dali was aware when his edgy art became so recognized that he had little choice than to continue with the same themes throughout his career, partly a commercial decision. I've written a novel, spent years in journalism, played in the same band for twelve years with four albums, released a comedy album, invented the CG vid poem, worked on projects that would blow your mind, but it's my obsession with the imagery of breasts (especially big ones) combined with my love for the computer that has given me my footprint as an artist, both visibly and commercially. Because of an obligation to my paying subscribers on Suckermouth, I don't have time to do much else than CG breast expansion cartoons.
- You can't find Venus de Milo nor the statue of David nor "Fill 'er Up" on YouTube. Venus - missing arms and all - and David are naked statues from antiquity, while "Fill 'er Up" is a CG woman in a bikini walking into a bar and ordering a drink as her breasts expand (the YouTube version has a big huge bar over the nude part and ends early compared to the full version on Suckermouth).
Or in the case, fight for what is "Evil."
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
"As more and more content emerges on the web, users are looking for an easier way to aggregate that content. We think we can create opportunities for advertisers to reach their target audiences while maintaining a high quality user experience." - Actual quote from the FAQs on the FeedBurner site regarding Google's acquisition of the Chicago startup.
You always know when a company has gone to the dark side when it talks like this. Google is basically bragging about monopolizing the web, with cute language like "aggregate" and "opportunities for advertisers". And the "high quality user experience" is code for We choose who will be part of the web, where they'll be ranked, and what is acceptable for all of humanity. First Amendment be dammed, Google doesn't have to worry about that at all. They just want to be squeaky clean and rich off click-throughs. They don't want to break ground other than with new advertising widgets and programs. Who still thinks Google is cool?
One more quote for you, this one from the Content Limitations page here on Blogger.com:
Commercial Pornography: We do not allow content that exists for the primary purpose of monetizing porn content or driving traffic to a monetized pornography site
Okaaaaaaay... Has anyone else noticed that Google and YouTube thinks anything adult oriented is porn? We all now what porn is, and although my site is all cartoons with no simulated sex, I'm fairly certain based on my deleted vids from YouTube that the grandmas and fanatics at Google would hold up my silly little animation site as porn. Municipalities used to have to fight all the way up to the Supreme Court (and often lose) trying to define what pornography is. The basic standard is "no redeeming social value." The truth is, what I'm doing is art. It may be adult-oriented art, but it is not two sweaty people fornicating in front of a lens, it is a dedicated effort by an artist using multiple disciplines to deliver humorous sight gags laced with political and social satire snuggled in a little bit of eroticism. I could argue this if the gov't were trying to censor me, but the argument is worthless against Google, which can simply shrug its limp corporate shoulders and hit the "delete" button.
Unfortunately, as Google clamps down on Free Speech more and more in a legal (but unethical) manner in the name of ad revenue, I don't think Suckermouth is the one that needs "redeeming," but rather the "society" we have come to know as the web.
Now I have to get back to what I was doing: Flagging YouTube vids that show ankles... Oh my gawd! Was that a knee?
Keep your friends close. Keep your enemies closer.
Everyone knows the Google web monopoly is about the ads (they thought they could sell their online office software, but found out better). Big corporate media partners to YouTube (Warner Music being the latest) are ending content sharing agreements with the viral video site because they are disappointed with the paltry sums of money they're making from YouTube.
I've never made a single penny off YouTube, even after all those video views, because they have some kind of gauntlet you have to run before you can have ads on your videos; between me hating the idea of ads on my vids and YouTube hating my content, that wasn't going to happen. There is no generic "per click" view on user uploaded videos, as most of you probably know. As a solution, I started my own subscription-based pay site and the rest is history.
So what now? Now I see what Google/Blogger/ AdSense does with my application for an AdSense account that I submitted today. I'm going to continue to criticize YouTube and its parent company Google in my blogs, so it would be nice to know (a) if these bastards will approve my application in the first place; and (b) if Google really does generate any revenue off Blogger.
There's not really much more to be said about AdSense until I hear back. Once I have an account up and running, I can start to extrapolate a lot of info, such as per click pays, "relevant" ad choices, etc.
Come here, Google, I've got a great big bear hug for you, you anti-Free Speech monopolistic fiends.
Aaron Mystery is the sole owner and artist behind Suckermouth.com, and one half of the band Brethren and the Evil Empire. He currently has over 6,000,000 video views on YouTube.
Monday, January 12, 2009
There's the old idea that if you're not going to do something about it, don't complain; regardless of what "it" is. Okay, I'm game.
Before I get into a theoretical discussion of what someone could do to voice displeasure with some of YouTube's "business practices", a couple more bits of info about my dog in this fight.
My nasty filthy little blight of a YouTube channel can be found (for now, anyway) at:
If you're past the shock (yawn), we can now move on to... Yes, I made all of them... (Except for the Okword music video - he asked me to post that for him.) Now if we can get on to... No, I don't have a life. And before you ask, yes, people pay to see more. Two years later, I'm still pleasantly surprised, too.
So we all agree that if YouTube is trigger-happy on pulling videos of any kind, after 150 cartoons, one or two might get tagged for removal. It's almost the law of averages as YouTube currently operates. But rational? Hardly. The last two vids removed from YouTube ("Fill 'Er Up" and "Harriett Potter...Part 2") can conveniently be found at my DailyMotion channel:
Oh, wow, the vids that got pulled were just like the other 100 or so dirty cartoons still at my YouTube channel? Yeah, I guess that means I prepare for my account to be deleted at YouTube, since a cartoon with more than 20,000 views (not one of my most popular) that had been on for months can get pulled with no explanation as to why. It seems as though nothing is safe from where my dog is standing.
What I Can Do and What I Will Do.
Whenever you're critical of a monopoly, you oddly find yourself using that monopoly. So to sort this out, let's separate the YouTube part of this argument from the Google part (if only for the moment). YouTube is why I'm blogging, because my experience and what I've read have convinced me that I need to continue to speak out on the issue of reckless censorship on the world's biggest viral video site. While I feel quite ridiculous complaining on my own behalf because my content is so ludicrous itself is part of the point. Did we dream all these years of better, faster, more accessible information so we could have cartoons removed from a web site that is replacing our interest in t.v.? I can tell you, we didn't.
The Google part is the Search Engine, Blogger, Gmail, etc. You got me by the balls, guys - or maybe not. Here's what I can do and whether I'm actually inclined to do it (I do love my Gmail, you bastards):
- Use a search engine other than Google. This is a good one, because it's how Google makes most of its money. AltaVista still functions - I used it today to find other articles and posts about how bad YouTube has gotten (if Google has already bought AltaVista, someone please let me know). [Yes, I will use a different search engine from now on.]
- Use DailyMotion.com or another viral video site to watch (and upload) videos. DailyMotion allows limited nudity, though I found out with my last video that even DailyMotion can get an itchy trigger finger. There's no longer anything special about YouTube - they have plenty of competition. [Already doing it, though YouTube admin has guaranteed my continued boycott.]
- Use a different email service than Gmail. Even if you have a Gmail account, you likely have others. Try using different email services whenever convenient. [I warned you I would have a hard time doing this, but I'll hold on to my other email accounts just in case.]
- (Gasp!) Use a different blogging web site than Blogger. Does Google even make any money off Blogger? I didn't even realize Google owned Blogger until my first post (which I've since re-edited to reflect this). [Since this is my second blog, I have no problem with signing up for a different blog site, but maybe this is providence... If I continue to criticize Google and YouTube on Blogger, and my blog disappears, it'll help prove my point.... Hmmm.... Maybe I ought to go over to BlogSpot...oh, Blogger is BlogSpot? Damn!]
It's enough to make you want to watch television.
Aaron Mystery is the sole owner and artist behind Suckermouth.com, and one half of the band Brethren and the Evil Empire. He currently has over 6,000,000 video views on YouTube.
Before I get into this YouTube criticism, I want to make it perfectly clear that I realize YouTube is not a gov't entity, and therefore can't really violate my free speech rights; I get it. Still, with talk of net neutrality, and Google's burgeoning net monopoly (Google Search, YouTube, gmail), there is a disturbing trend of censorship emerging, whether you look at it from the angle of my cartoons (which are maybe PG-13 as they appear on YouTube, with the exception of language) to religious examples such as Koran verses and Pro-Life messages (I am not a Muslim, nor a pro-lifer, but people still have a right to communicate their religious views and civic opinions).
I've had a vid yanked off YouTube about once every six months for the two plus years I've had an account there. I have about 150 videos, most of which are sexy cartoons, so it's not shocking, if you know YouTube's track record. But I try very hard to stay within the TOS of YouTube. So when I had a vid removed last Thanksgiving that was no different than the 100+ that were still on the site, I was pissed and delivered an anti-YouTube rant via my flagship character, Ace the Zombie.
To my surprise, YouTube left the Ace rant up (it didn't violate TOS, after all), even though it was very, very anti-YouTube. But that was it; I was done posting anything to YouTube for six months (the time it takes before your violation is erased from your account). That whole episode was over a month ago.
So what did YouTube do next? It removed "Harriett Potter and the Wand of Breast Expansion Part 2," a video that had been on YouTube for months and months and is very cartoonish, to the point I did the girls' voices in it (ala South Park, I suppose). There was no nudity, just some cartoons boobs' getting bigger under their clothes. You know, kind of like "Harriett Potter and the Wand of Breast Expansion Part 1", which is still on YouTube.
Now the threat from YouTube is accompanied by a condition. I have to accept that I violated the terms and then wait two weeks before I post anything new. And if I have another violation in six months, my entire account and 150+ vids will be deleted.
So I'm not pulling the "poor me" card - there's always DailyMotion - and the less I can show on viral video sites the more I can talk up Suckermouth.com, which is a pay site.
But that's not the point; consider these questions:
- What else is being censored (a.k.a. removed) by YouTube/Google/Blogger? Why?
- Whose accounts are being deleted from YouTube and Blogger? Why?
- Will YouTube start removing videos that criticize its practices or its parent company? Blogs like this one that do the same?
- Will Google and YouTube start filtering searches? (They virtually already do because of what was called Payola in the radio industry.)
- Where does it end?
- Does Google start making Microsoft look fair when it comes to market competition?
Crap... Can't Google just buy all of us now and save us the anxiety?
Part 2 will focus on what we can do about this whole mess...