Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Knowing Is Half The Battle

It always surprises me when I talk with my real, non-Internet-based, flesh-and-blood friends and family--about comics, TV, movies, and all the other pop culture nonsense that I enjoy so much--that they don't know all of the far-out minutia, behind-the-scenes news, and secret spoilers that I do.

Sure, the Internet people are all plugged into the same sources, all day and night, and usually tripping over themselves (ourselves, really) to outscoop the rest by posting links and opinions on Facebook, Twitter, or wherever else one does that sort of thing. But Average Jane and Average Joe, with their healthy social lives and Vitamin D counts, who have put the childish things behind them, except for the occasional Saturday night at the movies...they haven't got a clue, and it blows my mind.

I don't expect everyone to know everything, because I sure don't. But this is the fun stuff here! I just feel bad that, with all the technology and geeks like me linking to the stuff left and right, that there's still anyone out there who's out of touch with my good time. Seriously--there are people who don't even realize companies still print comics, let alone have any clue what is going on inside of them. They don't have obsessively thought out opinions on the casting of Thor and Captain America, the destinies of The Losties, or the release schedule for Harry Potter movies. They hear old rumors and swear by them, or get the facts so mixed up that they become false ("Hey Matt, are you excited about that Justice League movie they're filming now?" [They're not.]). They download fan-made trailers from YouTube and think they're the real deal ("I can't wait for that Thundercats movie, Matt!" [That's fake.]). It's like dealing with a foreigner or an alien species.

This stuff is just in my head at this point, and I can't wrap that junk-loaded mind of mine around the idea that it isn't in theirs.

But it isn't fair of me to judge. When I'm not at home convalescing, I spend a solid 40-50 hours a week sitting in front of a computer at work. That is a lot of time to surf the handful of sites where I go to feed my brain. But I want to do some good in the world and help these less-fortunate souls. I want to bring them into the loop. If not for them, then for me--because when they don't know, they don't care, and if they don't care, I am forced to talk about real stuff, like religion or politics, instead, and that is just no fun at all.

What better way to help these poor fools gain the knowledge they need than by sharing with them my own sources for geeky information? These are the sites I go to at least once a day, usually way more often than that, to find out what's the what:

TWITTER -- Forget about all the "everybody's doing it" peer pressure or the fact that reading people droning on about every mundane activity is only a notch below jamming a stick in your eye. The bottom line with Twitter is that, if you follow the right people (ie, celebrities you like, bloggers you trust) and pay attention to the always updating list of "Trending Topics," you will start each day with an overload of information about what is going on in the world around you.

BUZZFEED -- If you like your popular trends with a little lag time and after vetting by a collective of hipsters, you'll like Buzzfeed. The site basically just posts videos, images, and topics that happen to be making the rounds on the web each day. So instead of waiting for your mom to forward you that viral video next month, you can see it here, while it is still a conversation piece. Aggregating celebrity shenanigans, viral videos, and memes is their specialty.

AIN'T IT COOL NEWS -- A team of film insiders share scoops on upcoming releases, early reviews, casting news, and spoiler reports for a legion of snarky, foul-mouthed haters in the comments section who crap all over every bit of information they get. The content and opinions on the site give a pretty accurate picture of what matters to geeks like me when it comes to TV and movies, and the constant bilious back and forth between the AICN writers and readers is.

EW POPWATCH BLOG -- When it comes to content and tone, Entertainment Weekly's pop culture blog is sort of the office water cooler equivalent to AICN's nerd dungeon. If you like a more polite and polished source for entertainment buzz, you'll probably be willing to forgive the fact that PopWatch does more picking up on other sites' scoops than providing it's own gets. But when it comes to the Internet, the difference between a scoop and a link usually comes down to hours or minutes, not days. PopWatch is also the home of my favorite source for all-things Lost, Jeff Jensen, who digs deep to analyze, theorize, and jazzercise his way through every episode of my favorite TV show.

BLEEDING COOL/COMIC BOOK RESOURCES -- Rich Johnston used to write a weekly news and gossip column about the comic industry, "Lying in the Gutters," for a bigger comics site called Comic Book Resources. He's since left CBR to start his own site, which is essentially Lying in the Gutters 24/7. I like CBR, but aside from reading their extensive comic convention coverage a few times each year, I'd only visit the site once a week for Rich's column. So far, Bleeding Cool has managed to capture all the big industry stories while doing away with the overload of Marvel, DC, and Image press releases that CBR presents as "news." Read them both, however, and you'll know everything you need to know about comics (and in BC's case, whether the comic industry wants you to know it or not).

MTV SPLASH PAGE -- While other sites cover my interest in the printed side of the comic industry, I like to visit MTV's newish site dedicated to comic book movies. The MTV name and notoriety leads to more cooperation from the filmmakers in terms of offering interviews, and those interviews are where all the other buzz sites tend to pull their "scoops" about casting, plot spoilers, etc. Splash Page is a good source for actual news, even if the topic is a little limiting.

WRESTLEVIEW -- With as many as 10 hours of original, repeat-free, weekly programming on US television, and a huge following worldwide, there's no denying that professional wrestling is a major part of pop culture. And, since, next to superheroes and G.I. Joes, the Superstars of Wrestling were my drug of choice as a kid, it is firmly embedded in my nostalgia-fueled heart and mind today. It's crude and corny and the antithesis to sophisticated, but the kid in me still likes to check in on what's going on with the muscleheads we've been watching for decades. But the adult in me is way more interested in what is going on with them behind the scenes. I don't know or care who the current champions are, because, even though the athleticism and acrobatics are cool to watch, that aspect of wrestling is fake and predictable. It's almost like checking in on old friends on Facebook...and the stuff you can find out goes beyond faces and heels. What do they look like now? Who died? Who got fired? Who got suspended for drugs? Who's trash-talking who in interviews? This is where you go to find out.

These are not the only websites I visit, and they're not necessarily the proven authorities in their respective areas. But whatever pop culture buzz, meme, announcement, or scandal is bouncing around the web on any given day either starts or ends somewhere within these pages. Maybe not all of these sites will suit you like they suit me, but there are plenty of alternate sources for the same information online. Seek it out and you will find it. Now you know.

But keep up that healthy social life. I may win in useless knowledge, but you've probably got me beat in exposure to daylight and physical fitness. Of course, if you're an overweight shut-in, you've got no excuse. Study up!

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