Daily Archives: August 1, 2018

It Is Blaugust and What Should I Even Write About?

Blaugust is upon us.  We are off and running.  If you want to see everybody involved, I am trying to keep the list I made up to date on my first post about this year’s Blaugust.

Blaugust Reborn

And according to the organizing post this week is:

  • August 1st – August 7th – Topic Brainstorming Week – posts about ideas for topics that the participants can then mine for the rest of the month.

After a dozen years you might think I have a plan here, a guide as to how to crank out a post almost every single weekday for year after year, with enough ideas left over that I have to double up some days or move into the weekends.  According to my eleventh anniversary statistical nightmare post, I had written, on average, 1.097 posts per day over the life of the blog up to that point.

And I seem to be keeping on that track.  I wrote 34 posts just last month, 32 in June, 31 in May, and 32 in April.  You have to go back to March to find me slipping under one a day, and then I wrote 27, which is still more than my target of one every weekday.

So how do I manage this?

I’ve covered bits and pieces of this before, especially during the old Newbie Blogger Initiative, where I tried to dispense what little practical advice I could muster.  In a lot of ways blogging is a very personal thing and the topics I pick and the way I go about writing work for me but likely wouldn’t work for you.  Different experiences, different lives, different values, all sorts of things drive what we do.

But I will straight up say that one piece of advice I gave out during the 2015 NBI stands pretty true:

And Low standards. I cannot emphasize how much just wanting to write something, versus wanting to write something good, helps out.

A lot of days it is that simple.  I don’t want to write something epic or filled with deeper meaning or pithy quotable passages or that is headline news and gets thousands of page views or retweets.  I just want to jot down something about video games I am playing.  Some observation or change or marking or a current or past event.

There is a strong nostalgia thread in what I write, or a history thread if you prefer.  I am still cranking out posts about TorilMUD, an online game I started playing back in late 1993, which was almost 25 years ago on my calendar. (I actually have three more posts about TorilMUD in draft form, so we’re not done there yet.)

But in writing about that I often come across things I wish I could remember or had written down some place.  I wish I could remember, as an example, the start and end dates of the various iterations of the MUD.  So, to some extent, knowing that I am missing so much information on games I have played in the past drives me, and that is basically everything before late 2006.

There is the difficulty of finding some of that information.  Yes, WoW is pretty well documented.  I can find a screen shot of Captain Placeholder when I need it.   But there is this line in the late 90s, before digital cameras were everywhere and when disk space was at a premium compared to now, where information dries up pretty quickly.  And even more recent but smaller games can pass by without much coverage.  And none of that marks what I was doing at the time.  I need to do that, and to do that I must write!

So you might reasonably expect this blog to have a lot of very short posts.  I think one every weekday is too few for my state goal.  So how am I doing so far this year?

2018 Site Stats Through July 31

So I am writing about a post a day.  July 31 was the 212th day of the year.  But I am writing what many might consider longer posts.  An average of a thousand words each feels like a lot to me.  I will run on.

Sometimes I run on to capture details that I know I will want.  Often in my EVE Online posts about fleet operations I will mention things that happened in the fleet, like an argument breaking out over BBQ sauce, because that flavor… heh… my memories when I go back and read the post a year later.  Other times I run on in order to pile up a few things into a single post, so rather than three posts about World of Warcraft I might end up getting everything into one longer post.

Sometimes I wish I would just opt for shorter, single topic posts.  It makes going back to look for details easier at times.  But pushing things together also has value in at least establishing context and relationships between topics.

And, of course, I cheat a bit as well.  I have a structure to some of my posts.  There are posts that recur monthly, or even weekly in the case of Fantasy Movie League, which give me something to write about on a regular basis.  Knowing that on Wednesday I have a post already can be a help.  Knowing that the last day of every month will be the Month in Review posts is nice.  And that is one I can start working on in advance.  I already have the bulk of August in Review written, since those posts are mostly the looks back to what was going on a year, five years, and ten years ago.  And knowing that I am going to do a post about the New Eden Monthly Economic Report and SuperData’s digital sales charts fills in some of the gaps.  Some times it is nice to have a regular topic.  It is almost a day off.  And then things get busy and I have a dozen topics I want to write about and I end up doubling up on those days all the same.

Back in the early days of the blog, maybe through the first three years, I used to feel I had to play a lot of new MMOs in order to keep things interesting for both myself and the reader.  I played games simply to blog about them.  I am pretty sure that explains Warhammer Online.  Writing about a new game gives you lots of topics to delve into and also gets you more page view.  New is much more likely to attract people than old.  But with the old comes history and evolution over time.

Then there is the time factor.  Where does one find the time?  Again, I’ve already written on that.  People find the time to do the things they really want to do.  If you see somebody’s blog and say wistfully to yourself that you wish you had the time, you’re only kidding yourself.  I tell myself I wish I had the time for all sorts of things.  And I do have the time.  I just choose to spend the time elsewhere.  In the end that is how you know what is really important to you.  I spend time writing about video games, often more time that I spend playing them on a given day.

And here we are more than a thousand words into a post… again… and I haven’t even thrown out any actual concrete ideas about which one might write.  Typical me.  All theoretical, no practical.

Then again, by my own philosophy, I shouldn’t worry too much on what I should write about and focus more on writing something.  It is better to write something than nothing at all.  When in doubt, make a list or do some bullet points.

Or you could just do what Syp wrote, which is far more to the point.

Summer Movie League – Tom Cruises

Week nine is now in the books for our Summer Fantasy Movie League.  It is also August and it feels like the end of summer is looming now.

This past week saw what one might consider the last real blockbuster of the season hit theaters. Box office expectations for new releases going forward are considerably more modest. But, in reality, a $30 million opening weekend is very good for most films.

Anyway, this week saw the following choices.

Mission: Impossible        $756
Mamma Mia 2                $227
The Equalizer 2            $201
Hotel Transylvania 3       $157
Teen Titans GO!            $149
Ant-Man and the Wasp       $116 
Incredibles 2              $89
Jurassic World             $76
Skyscraper                 $61
Blindspotting              $41
The First Purge            $28
Eighth Grade               $26
Unfriended 2               $18
Sorry to Bother You        $18
Three Identical Strangers  $16

Another installment in the Mission: Impossible franchise was clearly going to rule the box office. And, from what I have heard, the film was a good entry in the series, living up to the action expectations previously set. But was it worth three quarters of your weekly budget for a single screen?

On Monday I thought it was. For the Monday Hot Takes league I went with 1x Mission: Impossible, 2x Jurassic World, and 5x Sorry To Bother You. I then copied that pick to all of my leagues, which I do every Monday just to be sure I don’t end up with a “no pick” entry if I forget to check back before things lock.

If I has stopped there, or went into a coma five days, or otherwise left my picks alone for the rest of the week, I would have been pretty well set. Mission: Impossible ended up being the anchor for the perfect pick for the bonus-free TAGN league. If I had gone with Unfriended 2 rather than Sorry to Bother You, competing $18 picks, I would have been in first place.

Summer Movie League – Week Nine Perfect Pick

And, as it was, I would have been tied for first with Vigo, who also went with my Monday pick. But then I went off and researched the week, read updates and forecasts and all that, and messed everything up.

Which isn’t to say that research is bad. There have been weeks when last minute data has made obvious the right pick. I remember the week last summer when 8x Baby Driver was the go-to once the Thursday night previews were announced just before the league locked.

But there are weeks when research just messes with your head, where there isn’t a clear enough path so you start second guessing yourself, which is what I managed to do for the rest of the week.

I had, based on some reading in FML chatter, most notably the Bonus Bar discussion, decided that Mission: Impossible really needed to be close to $70 million in order to be worth the price as an anchor. I was wrong on that, clearly, since it made the cut with around $60 million. But I arrived at that number mostly by over estimating how much everything else was going to do. I set targets as to how much a potential anchor pick is going to have to make to be worthwhile, but sometimes in making that guess I mentally anchor my view of its potential there, even if I am just pulling that number out of my hindquarters.

Looking at possible anchors I got a bit fixated on The Equalizer 2. With Mission: Impossible tracking between $50-60 million, I could get four screens of Denzel for almost the same price as a screen of Tom Cruise and would come out close or possibly ahead in the bargain. I didn’t think Mamma Mia 2 was going to hold up any better, certainly not enough to be worth the price, and I remain simply biased against Hotel Transylvania.

And then there was Teen Titans GO! Given the holy war between fans of Teen Titans and fans of Teen Titans Go!, I was not prepared to go anywhere near that title. Add in the fourth wall breaking nature of the movie, wherein the Teen Titans want to star in a movie, and I was well past any hope for that as an option.

Come the Thursday morning lock for the TAGN league I was in for 4x The Equalizer 2, 1x The Incredibles 2, 1x Skyscraper, 1x The First Purge, and 1x Sorry to Bother You.

Summer Movie League – My Week Nine Picks

Normally I follow the strategy of trying to keep the number of different titles in my pick as low as possible. That was in a new player guide I read back when I started, where it said that winning lineups rarely exceed 4 different titles. But then last week’s perfect pick for the TAGN league had six titles in it, so I was ready to go in with more titles to spend as much of my budget as possible.

There I was, locked in, when Box Office Pro published their weekend forecast, and they were calling Teen Titans GO! at $17.5 million. I had already figured that anywhere north of $14 million or so would make that pick the only possible anchor, so now it was Thursday afternoon and I felt I had missed a huge opportunity. But I still had the remaining leagues that locked on Friday morning. I changed over to a 6x Teen Titans anchored lineup and copied it to all of those leagues. At least I wouldn’t be left out there.

And then, of course, Teen Titans GO! ended up making $10.4 million. Six screens still kept you not that far from the leaders, at least in the TAGN league, but it wasn’t the resounding victory that Box Office Pro predicted.

Meanwhile, my Thursday pick, anchored on The Equalizer 2, kept me ahead of those on the Teen Titans GO! bus, but only just barely. Then there was my Monday pick which, as I said, I would have been better off sticking with and eschewing any research. And so it goes.

The scores for the week shook out as follows:

  1. Vigo Grimborne’s Medieval Screening Complex – $81,564,959
  2. Goat Water Picture Palace – $81,258,669
  3. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex – $77,772,503
  4. I HAS BAD TASTE – $76,212,668
  5. Wilhelm’s Abyssal Pocket Playhouse – $72,267,827
  6. Too Orangey For Crows – $71,412,269
  7. Ben’s X-Wing Express – $71,412,269
  8. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights – $70,920,659
  9. grannanj’s Cineplex – $70,169,864
  10. Darren’s Unwatched Cineplex – $69,609,716
  11. Skar’s Movies and Meat Pies – $66,702,069
  12. Miniature Giant Space Hamsterplex – $62,286,338
  13. Joanie’s Joint – $65,895,544
  14. Po Huit’s Sweet Movie Suite – $65,030,230

Only 14 people picked this week, and FML isn’t displaying all the people who forgot, so I’ll just list out those who did pick.

As noted, Vigo went with the winning anchor, betting on Mission: Impossible and two screens of Jurassic World. Of the top four, only Corr had something different, going with three screens of Hotel Transylvania 3.

Then there was me and me bet on Denzel, which put me a step ahead of the next three on the list, who were all anchored up on Teen Titans GO!, which SynCaine having what ended up being my Friday pick.

After that people were dragged down by unfortunate filler choices, with Blindspotting being the dead weight of the week, the worst price/performer.

That left the overall standings looking like this:

  1. Wilhelm’s Abyssal Pocket Playhouse – $835,772,736
  2. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex – $834,004,835
  3. I HAS BAD TASTE – $815,877,306
  4. Goat Water Picture Palace – $798,942,124
  5. Miniature Giant Space Hamsterplex – $798,312,590
  6. Vigo Grimborne’s Medieval Screening Complex – $783,203,111
  7. Ben’s X-Wing Express – $756,022,312
  8. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights – $753,622,997
  9. Darren’s Unwatched Cineplex – $736,038,512
  10. Po Huit’s Sweet Movie Suite – $733,779,261
  11. grannanj’s Cineplex – $724,501,443
  12. Too Orangey For Crows – $691,973,906
  13. Kraut Screens – $688,649,141
  14. Joanie’s Joint – $679,568,291
  15. Paks’ Pancakes & Pics – $641,653,028
  16. Biyondios! Kabuki & Cinema – $639,347,136
  17. aria82’s Cineplex – $605,936,381
  18. Skar’s Movies and Meat Pies – $520,110,394

I remain just baby steps ahead of Corr, with the gap between us just short of $1.8 million.  That is as close as makes no difference, and with five weeks left to go there is plenty of time for somebody to secure a lead.

I will have to go back and check, but I think what really differentiates the top five in the season so far is that none of us have missed a week nor had a really bad pick so far.

Which brings us to week ten.  The options for the week are:

Christopher Robin        $513
Mission: Impossible      $512
The Spy who Dumped Me    $268
The Darkest Minds        $154
Mamma Mia 2              $136
The Equalizer 2          $126
Hotel Transylvania 3     $131
Teen Titans GO!          $93 
Ant-Man and the Wasp     $88
Incredibles 2            $76
Jurassic World           $70
Death of a Nation        $55
Skyscraper               $45
Eighth Grade             $32
The First Purge          $16

We say farewell to Blindspotting, Unfriended 2, Sorry to Bother You, and Three Identical Strangers.

Taking their places are Christopher Robin, The Spy who Dumped Me, The Darkest Minds, and Death of a Nation.

I am torn on Christopher Robin.  On the one hand, Winnie the Pooh was a staple of my childhood, both the original books and the Disney movies.  I can still know the lyrics to I’m a Little Black Rain Cloud and such.  But do I care about adult Christopher Robin, even one played by Ewan McGregor, having stuffed animal flash backs?  Isn’t that more of a Seth McFarland sort of thing?  Is that enough to dethrone Ethan Hunt and the Impossible Mission Force?  CR was forecast for about $30 million, so all Mission Impossible has to do is drop less than 50% in the first week to be worth the extra dollar.

I have no such conflict over The Spy Who Dumped me.  The premise is only so-so, the is cast bland, and the reviews are not promising.  Still, there are not a lot of comedies on the list right now, at least non-musical ones.  The long range forecast was $16 million, but had been trending down.  Still probably good for $14 million though.

If I understand the story correctly, The Darkest Minds is essentially an X-Men movie featuring young mutants without a Dr. Xavier to guide them.  Long range forecasts had this at $9 million.

And then there is Death of a Nation.  What to even say about this?  The poster… and I gather the movie itself… attempts to equate Donald Trump with Abraham Lincoln.  I guess the #MAGA crowd found their own version of Michael Moore.   Opening on more than a thousand screens, at least this kills the idea that the media is controlled by liberals.  A red state wild card I suppose, and maybe a barometer for the upcoming mid-term elections this November, but otherwise not a promising pick to my mind.

Given all that, my Monday Hot Takes picks were 1x Mission: Impossible, 6x The Incredibles 2, 1x Eighth Grade.  Betting it all on Tom, Pixar, and the filler that happened to fit.  Still, I am looking at Mama Mia 2 as a possible.  It had a big fall for week two, but people keep comparing it to Book Club when it comes to audience, so if it could soften its fall in week three and pull maybe $8 million, it could be a real contender.

As usual, the TAGN league locks in less than 24 hours from this post, so get your picks in now!