Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Reviewing my old poetry

Hey, everyone!

Last night I remembered that Facebook has this feature called "notes" where you can basically publish posts like this one to Facebook. And I remembered that from middle school to the beginning of college I used to post my own poetry and monologues and stuff on there for some reason.
I gave them a look expecting to cringe. And many of my old poems are pretty bad; they're melodramatic and try to use as many weird gimmicks and big words as possible and they're just really pretentious and desperate sounding. However, I did find some old poems that were surprisingly not horrible and some that I even enjoyed reading.
So I thought it would be fun to pick some of the not-horrible ones and post them on here and criticize them a bit.

We'll start off with a fun one. It's pretty brilliant.

Jamien the Masked Mailyman

I waited for my mail
I waited in the jail
It seemed she would ne'er come
For up up up went my heart
And down down down went my feet

I was just messing around and trying to make fun of poetry clich├Ęs
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This one is probably my favorite.

Written on a leap day in math class

Here in this room I learn to think of hope
I suffocate and learn to use my lungs
This is the place where days and dreams elope
Where young caged birds restrain their out-loud songs
Here in this room I learn the highest arts
Math and science and geometry
Yet in this place we never reach the heart
Of what bluebirds sing--of poetry
I see in every wall and boundary
A secret treasure made that I will take
Inside, a golden opportunity
For every law and ordinance to break
Though in the face of death some will retreat
The young at heart refuse to fall asleep

I published this to Facebook on February 29th, 2012. I think this was the time when I was taking a math class at 8am so I had to catch an early bus and sit through a monotonous class while trying to stay awake. But I learned during boring classes like those that you can daydream the best when put under that kind of pressure. It's the times when I'm bored and stressed out that I really get creative and think of some of the best ideas. So in this poem I think I was trying to express that the really lame times like that are actually opportunities for inspiration in disguise.
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Ok, here's another one I think is pretty good.

(No title)

Break the chains of sleet and snow
Kill the winds that freezing blow
Free the earth that cursed died
Let the dirt be glorified

Undress, reveal uncovered feet
Wrap them up in summer heat
Tear off insulating skin
Reveal the hidden strength within

Fill the air with humid breath
Loose the bonds of time and death
Open up our lungs to breathe
Every possibility

I don't have a date for this, but I know I wrote it on a piece of lined paper in the coffee shop on my college campus. I remember it was winter, so I just put together a cool little rhyme and a meter that sounded cool and put this together.  I think it sounds kind of hymn-like. I also remember having the stanza about feet bouncing around in my head for a while before I finally got around to putting it to paper.
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Here's another stupid joke one. It's actually more stupid than the Jamien one, so it's pretty stupid.

Confab Rehab

Confabulation coagulation
Is sweeping the nation!
Elimination of generations
It's a hit sensation!

Spreading bread
Is blanketing the homestead!
Widespread love dread
It's never been proofread

Do you suppose I'm the best of us?
Humility is such a fuss
Nickelback just Hinders us
Wallabies are kangaroos

Choose your muse
It's real bad news
If you lose the ruse
Because zoos come in two's

I just made that up to be stupid. The only stanza that I even care about is the one about Nickelback because it's referencing an in-joke that I've had a for a while (with who? Myself I guess) about how the bands Nickelback and Hinder are interchangeable.
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I think I'm just going to chicken out and not share my terrible stuff. I don't even like looking at it myself. >.>

Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Swag Box!


Christmas came early this--er--last year. It was funny, I had ordered a lot of presents from Amazon, and when a shipment came one day, there was this large box for me that I didn't recognize. I seriously didn't put two and two together until I cut a small hole in the tape and saw an orange paper that said "Nickelodeon" on it, and I knew. It was finally here!

So let's not waste time. Here's what was in it.
The Swag box is a ~12” wide x 17” long x 8”deep” hard cardboard chest with a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles print on it. It has a small clasp and rope handles on either side.

(The contents were packed in perfectly and probably won’t be packed that well ever again. I took it all apart willie nillie with my family so there isn’t a proper order to this list.)

It’s contents:
  • A letter from Nick Animation.
  • A paper with links to Nick Animation on social media platforms
  • 1 L Get Schooled t-shirt.
  • 1 L Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles t-shirt
  • 1 L Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles tank top
  • 1 “limited edition” Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles “Japanese Vinyl Hikari” figure. (Michaelangelo)
  • 1 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles “Fabrikation soft sculpture” plushie (Leonardo)
  • 1 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles “Classic Collection” action figure “inspired by the original TMNT movies turtles! ‘1990!’” (Raphael)
  • 1 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles inspired piggy bank (Leonardo)
  • 1 pair of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles headphones
  • 1 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles “Go Ninja Go Ninja Go” wooden wall display
  • 1 Spongebob seat belt buckle-style belt
  • 1 Spongebob stocking cap
  • 1 Nickelodeon cup/straw (durable transparent plastic)
  • 1 Get Schooled 3x5” spiral notepad
  • 1 Get Schooled ballpoint pen
  • 1 Nickelodeon note pad
  • 1 Invader Zim ONI PRESS comic (Issue #2)
  • 1 (approximately) 5” wide x 8” long x 3” deep Nickelodeon themed box. It is an orange rubbery case, with textured Nickelodeon themed raised patterns at textures. It closes snugly. Inside:
    • 1 “Nickelodeon ARCHIVE Collector Series” book. It is full of postcards with photos of original concept art of Nickelodeon characters. Just a lot of interesting drawings, paintings and storyboards of recognisable and never-realized characters.
    • 1 “Spongeboy” poster
    • 2 sets of small cards that have information about the creators of Nickelodeon shows, as well as some small stickers.
  • 1 wrapped gift (Nickelodeon themed wrapping paper)
    • A small nicely made book-sized carrying case with a zipper handle shaped like a bare foot.
    • (Inside) An orange Nickelodeon Animation Studio blank notebook
    • Four #2 Nickelodeon Animation Studios pencils (they fit into pouches).
  • 1 Nickelodeon Art Of book “Not Just Cartoons”. It gives short, but detailed looks at all of Nickelodeon’s past shows (storyboards, concept art, etc).
  • 1 pack of silica gel ;)

Needless to say, I'm pretty happy that it finally arrived and I have it in my clutches.

I'm actually pleasently surprised with the quality of the prize. Besides some of the toys which I've yet to find a use for, and the overabundance of TMNT merchandise, this stuff is pretty cool. I'm especially happy with the Art Of book, because I collect those, so it went right into my collection with the rest. I also like the shirts and belt and such, because I get to show off how rediculous I am.

Once again, thank you to everyone who helped me win this. I couldn't have done it without you!

The Nickfluence Animation Challenge DEBRIEF

Hey, everyone!

A few things before I begin:
First, sorry this took so long to upload. I ran into technical difficulties, and the holidays happened. I wish there were a super beautiful way to present all my data in a fun way, but however it works out is what you get.
Second, this post may ramble, so just bear with me.
Anyways, enough disclaimers. Enjoy whatever this is.

   Let's just cut to the chase here. I wanted to give a full debrief on the whole Nickfluence thing so I could unpack it and process what happened, because I think there's a story here, and it needs to be told.
   So let's begin with a little context.

   I keep up with a great news source for things going on in the animation industry called "Cartoon Brew", and I heard that Nickelodeon and Get Schooled (I think they sort of help kids with education in a fun way) were offering some kind of scholarship for young animators in this article, so I sent them my email and didn't hear anything for a long time.
   I think it was around a month or two later when I got an email from Get Schooled encouraging people to sign up.

   So what was this all about, you ask? This was the "'What's My Nickfluence?' Animation Challenge" hosted by Nickelodeon and Get Schooled. It was a competition where anyone ages 17 to 24 could participate. Contestants must create an original animated film up to 3 minutes long that basically shows their "Nickfluence", meaning how Nickelodeon has affected their lives. I won't go into specific rules unless I need to, so the full rules are online here if you want to take a look. Basically, contestants were charged to make an animated short that shows that they love Nickelodeon, either by using Nick characters or an original short. This was also for Nickelodeon's 25th anniversary.

The stakes?
   There was a High School and a College pool of contestants, each with different Grand Prizes. Each pool had the same People's Choice prize though. The High School Grand Prize was a Wacom Cintiq drawing computer with Adobe CC software, the College Grand Prize was a $25,000 scholarship to the college of their choice. The People's Choice prizes for both pools was a "Swag Box" full of Nickelodeon and Get Schooled merchandise worth $500 USD.

   I didn't know if I was going to actually enter for a while, but I eventually decided to jump in, thinking, "What the hey, why not?" I think I started working on my short about a week late though, which is too bad because I really could have used that week.

The animation portion of the competition began on July 20th and went until September 14th. During that time, contestants animated their shorts as quickly as possible. I could go into detail about the process of animating my short, but I think I'll just save that for a later post if I have a lot to say. I just ended up using all the reference I could from short clips of the cartoons I used, but tweaked many of them in different ways. I'm new to animating, so it's what I had to do. I copied a lot, but I didn't roto anything.
   I decided to make my short feel fun and energetic to exemplify what I think Nickelodeon is all about. I didn't want to get sappy and emotional and pretend like my life was deeply moved by TV because it wasn't. I like cartoons, and Nickelodeon has undoubtedly had an influence on me, but it's not to the point that I would get emotional about it. But I can honestly say that Nickelodeon is fun,  so my short was meant to show that and to celebrate their 25th anniversary.

Unfortunately, I didn't have time to fully clean it all up or color it. Like I said, I really should have used that week that I spent fussing over if I should do this or not. But overall, I like the short. For my very first animated short film, I'd say I did alright. I submitted my short that night with around 3 minutes to spare, no joke. It was a long night.

Here's my "finished" short. 

   And this is where the real story begins. Remember, I had no idea how big of a deal this was going to be to me until several weeks later. At this point, I was just happy to have finished and submitted my first animated film.

The People's Choice competition

   When all the contestants submitted their shorts, they were posted on the nickfluence.com to be voted on in the People's Choice competition. While the Grand Prize winners were to be chosen by the Nickfluence Crew themselves based on their judging criteria, the People's Choice Prize was up for grabs to whomever recieved the most votes by November 15th.
   So what I'm going to do here is chronicle this competition for you to the best of my ability, from beginning to end.

   On the first day that the People's Choice site was open, I started watching all the other shorts feverishly, because I really wanted to know what I was up against. I already went into detail about my favorite films in a previous post, so if you want to know my opinions check that out, especially if you were a contestant.
   When looking at the shorts, the spread went from zero effort, to amazing. I wrote down a tier list putting myself somewhere near the top. I don't think mine was the best, but considering the entire competition in the College section, I was at least top 10.
    ANYWAYS, I digress.

   On the first day, I voted for myself. It was the first vote anyone put on the site. And surprisingly it stayed that way for a whole day, because the site had a coding mistake that only allowed one vote-per-short, instead of the intended one vote-per-IP address, per day. I talked to web programmers I know and emailed the Nickfluence Crew to tell them what was up. They said they were working on it. That day, only "My Nickfluence" and myself were able to get a single vote. I had my moment of fame at the top spot with the "Current Winner" banner.

   On the following day, however, the site was repaired and the voting began. Soon, people began to take their places. The front runners then were "Mugman at the Driving Range", "Thank You" and "Don't Give Up". I was making something like 20 votes a day I think, while they were making 50 or 60. I still have notes calculating their average votes per day, and I remember marveling at how they could possibly be getting that many. I was so naive. ;)

When it all began

   It was on Oct. 1st that I decided it would be fun to keep a detailed record of all the votes. So I created two Google Sheets documents, one to keep a line graph to show votes over time, and another to keep a  Bar Graph to show the current standings. I updated the line graph every day at 10:00 am and updated the bar graph whenever I wanted to. I now have an entire spreadsheet of the entire voting period, minus the first 3 days (I had to estimate those numbers). I can see every vote of every short for 49 days.

Here's the raw data

Here's the line graph, showing votes over time

Click the arrow button (next to the text box) to advance the graph day by day, or just click "Automate".

   So anyways, let me continue with the story. You should keep an eye on the graph, so you can see the data as I reference it.

   It was on Oct 6th when things went from a voting competition to a war. I talked about this in my last blog post.
  On Oct 7th I woke up and realized that "Don't Give Up" had made the first major move in the game. She made over 300 votes in one day. This was unprecedented, and it gave her a big lead (or what was considered a big lead at that time).
   It was also around this time that I became involved with getting to know the other contestants through Twitter. I was able to make contact with Priscilla and Christina, creators of "Don't Give Up" and "Thank You" respectfully. This is where a lot of the drama comes from.
   Without going into too much detail, Christina seemed to be so stunned and frustrated by Priscilla's quick rise in votes that she basically dropped out of the competition, and accused her of cheating. I was not able to console her, and I actually didn't want to, because I knew that she was major competition, so I actually needed her to give up. And gave up she did.
   I was also in contact with Priscilla, and I got information from her about how she wasn't cheating. She was using "word of mouth promotions". Basically, she was going viral in her own circles of influence. Very interesting.

Just for the record, I'll lay the cheating allegations to rest right here. I never once encouraged anyone to cheat. I only had friends show me that it was possible a couple times, but that only probably amounted to a tiny amount of votes, like at MOST 5 votes. Anything else was not on my watch. The only way to "cheat" would be to use Proxy servers to vote multiple times on one device. This is actually kind of an arduous process, and actually isn't a good way to get a lot of votes. I don't think anyone in the competition benefited from doing that, and I certainly never encouraged anyone to do that. I wanted an completely honest victory. So that's off the table.

  On Oct. 8th, while I was walking to work, I thought intensely about this. At that time, I had 271 votes, and Priscilla had 1,190, and she was moving much faster than me. The way I saw it, I had a serious choice in front of me. I could either not take this very seriously and most assuredly lose and hope that I get chosen for the Grand Prize, or I could take this as serious as I possibly could and have a chance at winning the People's Choice Award. The People's Choice competition was the only thing I actually had any control over, so I knew that if I was going to have a chance at beating Christina and Priscilla, I would have to do everything within my power to get more votes (other than cheating obviously). And in that moment as I was walking to work, I made the decision to try and care more than any other contestant. I was going to have to make my own big moves if I was going to get ahead. And I made a promise to myself that was not going to break: I was never going to give up, no matter what.

And from this point on I was 150% involved. Make no mistake, I was totally obsessed with this competition. It was seriously the #1 thought on my mind for 49 days. Nickfluence was the first thing I thought of when I woke up and that last thing I thought of when I fell asleep. It's also worth mentioning that I had just finished reading "Ready Player One" and it somehow felt like I was competing for Halliday's Treasure or something. But anyways, more on my obsession later. 

   And move I did. When I got to work (I work at a school district as a classified substitute helper), I got the receptionist to send out an email to the whole district to vote for me. Unfortunately, this didn't really give me the boost I wanted that day, but my resolve was strengthened. I was willing to talk to whoever I needed to in order to win. This was serious.

   Judging by the data, I think it must've been on Oct. 9th or 10th, but on those days, I began to move much faster. I remember being at a small party with my extended family and watching as my votes began to spike. At that time, I hit 3rd place under "Of Dragons and Men" and "Don't Give Up". 
   So what did I do? I asked my brothers to advertise for me on their places of influence online. My older brother to his sites, and my younger brother to his. This gave me a huge boost that night. I had already been sharing to Facebook and Google+, but tapping into their power was what I needed.

   And that was the secret. It isn't so much about getting people in the real world to vote, that only amounts to small-time numbers. What you really need is to go viral online. If 200 people vote and each of them shares to 200 of their own friends, then that's potentially 40,000 votes. That is the kind of power that Priscilla and I were able to tap into during the course of this competition.

  Anyways, it was the morning of Oct. 14th that I took second place. And the battle basically became between Priscilla and me. She stopped talking to me on Twitter, and I can only assume why.

   Things were looking good for me, and I began to urge everyone even harder to vote like they've never voted before.
   It's such a weird feeling trying to pull the reigns on this imaginary machine. I would sit down on a computer and turn on Facebook, Twitter, and my charts, and I'd try to make inspiring tongue-in-cheek speeches to try to encourage people to vote. And I would watch as I would make 1,000 votes in a day. It's like this weird faith thing where I just willed it to happen and it would happen.

   Unfortunately, I had a really bad couple days from the 15th through the 17th, and it started looking bad, but like I said earlier, I was never going to give up. But on the 18th, I got back in the swing of things and started making around 1,500 votes per day again.

   Oct. 17th: Priscilla spikes up 2,653 votes. WHAAAT?
   Oct. 18th: Priscilla only makes 206 votes. OMG YES!
   Oct 19th: Priscilla makes 3,386 votes. DARK DAYS! SUPERNOPE! 
(The site also crashed on this day.)
   From then until the 27th, things went regularly and we both held the status quo. We were both making around 2,000 on a bad day, 3,000 on a good day, 4,000 on a great day, and 5,000 on an amazing day.

   What happened next was awesome. On the 27th I decided to share to a bunch of random Facebook and YouTube pages. I shared to Rhett and Link's Facebook page, and threw out a Graigslist ad (I don't think the Cragslist ad did anything). That day I mad a whopping 6,911 votes, which was the single biggest spike in the entire game.

   Around the 30th is when we started to wrestle for 1st place. I actually took the lead on the 31st sometime around 4:30-4:40pm, but lost it by the following morning.

It's also worth noting that the site was having issues all along the way, maybe due to server overload from so many votes. It was on the flux from the 27th-31st.

Oct. 31st, 4:20 PM

   On November 4th, I got the lead at around 3pm and held it until the end of the game.

Nov. 4, 3:30 PM

 Priscilla seemed to have lost her resolve because her votes suffered dramatically. Part of me felt bad, because I didn't want "Don't Give Up" to give up. She had been the only one steeled enough to fight this hard this long. But the other part of me was more than happy to crush her and take the prize myself. I was amazed that I was able to get this far, and I wasn't going to flake now.
   I made a stupid move though. In a subtle way, I popped off before the game was over and sent Priscilla a message on Twitter with some congratulations and asked to ask her some questions for this blog when it was over.
   If she read it or not, I don't know because she's never responded, and I respect that. But whatever the case, that day her votes spiked up 5,090 and I was completely terrified. By that time, I was starting to slow down as my voters were probably feeling like I was guaranteed the win, so this was a massive gain towards me, and I didn't know if her momentum would continue or not. If it continued, she definitely could have won.

   But her momentum didn't continue, and after that final breath of defiance against me, her campaign sighed its last and flat lined (a moment of silence for Priscilla's campaign).

Here's the final tally when voting was officially closed.

   And that was the end. I won the People's Choice competition. There was a little bit of drama afterwards too when I seriously panicked because I didn't know if I could provide Nickelodeon with the additional information they wanted from me, but it all got worked out.

What's this all about?
   I guess the even better question would be, "why are you so obsessed with this?" And I'd say that is a very good question, and it's something I've been thinking about a lot since this all started happening.
   I think this has taught me a lot about what makes me tick as a person and what makes me excited. As I've grown up, I've been honing in on what I like and don't like and how I actually function as a person, and my conclusions so far really make sense of my past and hopefully my future.

   I know for sure that above all things I like making of. I like things like animation and video games and sports and drama and music and books and whatever, but what I like more than those things is learning about the making of those things. I am totally fascinated by learning the secrets behind how things work and how they have been under your nose all along influencing you without you knowing.

   For instance, take a look at a big pop song you like. It's really great, but even greater is learning about how humans are inherantly drawn to certain BPMs (Beats Per Minute), and most pop songs sell better when they use tempos that match common heart-beat rates, or that match marching speeds (so you match the music when you walk).
   Or when you learn that painters and even animation artists have methods of subliminally leading your eye across a page in a particular way. It's like a beautiful form of mind control.
   Or when you learn about how classic video games were designed to "teach" you how to play in the first 15 minutes without saying a word to the player, just subliminally.

   I'm not joking when I say I'm fascinated by this kind of thing. I went through a phase in high school where I would buy weird music instruments like dulcimers, didgeridoos, and jaw harps partly because I liked playing them and liked the wow-factor that it had with friends, but mostly because I was fascinated by how they made different sounds and what about them enabled them to make different sounds. I studied how sound waves were produced in something like a banjo, and why they sounded different than a guitar. How does pairing strings with a resonating chamber versus a drum head affect its sound?

   In the past, I've also been captivated by the way that stories work. A story can impact you infinitely more than just information. I could say "Love changes everything" and you'd say, "Okay, whatever", but I could make a powerful film that shows that, and it could change your entire life. And it's because stories have a way of letting you come to conclusions on your own, without letting you know that it's being fed to you all along (that would break the illusion and ruin the magic trick). It's like the movie "Inception", ideas are more powerful if they come from within, not from the outside. And stories have that power.
   And this fascination draws me towards certain people. I love finding a stand up comedian or someone on a TED Talk who is able to show you information in a way that immerses you and makes you care. It's amazing.

   I've come to believe that this is core to who I am as a person somehow. I love making of. I don't know why, but I do more than anything.

So how does this relate to Nickfluence?

   This relates because during the course of the competition, I found myself completely obsessed with this process of plotting against invisible people online and getting up early to chart numbers on a graph. I don't like numbers. Why do I love this so much?
   I think I have a couple answers. For one, I think that I love scheming. Like I said earlier, I like the way that people can have a subliminal influence on someone else that is meaningful, and that you can discover the inner workings of something to learn why it affects people. And I dream of the day when I can make a film that will make others feel the way I feel; I want to immerse people in a world of my creation and have them feel the way that I want them to so I can communicate with them.
   It sounds like some kind of creepy thing if you think of it, but it's what authors and filmmakers and musicians and painters do for a living. 
   And relating back to Nickfluence, there's something about scheming that is really fun to me, and I love going off alone and making diabolical plans (all in good fun) to win a competition.

   But I think a bigger answer is that data can create a story. For anyone who just looked at the Nickfluence page every now and then, they would see that they are or aren't in the lead, and that the leaders have too many votes, and that would be the end of the story for them. But for me and those who watched my chart, there was a drama going on. There was excitement. The moment that I started recording the data, it became much more.
   And I think this goes for more than just this competition. Look at any census information or survey, they paint a picture in a unique way that just talking to your own circles doesn't do. In fact, I'm certain that there are tons of stories yet to be told in my own neighborhood, and that if I was weird enough I would start recording things like cat or bird populations or something and I'd have something interesting on my hands.
   And also, there's the way that I was able to simply choose to make this a thing. For most people in the competition, this wasn't that big of a deal, but because I made a decision to care, I cared. And because this wasn't something I was told to do, I did it all myself. And that made it meaningful to me. This was like my own little experiment, my own little game to play, and play it I did. That was super fun to me.

And I like the way that the prize was made more valuable by the game it took to win it. I had no idea what was in the "Swag Box", and I really didn't care. It could have been a lump of coal and I would have adored it just as much, simply because I won it. That's a powerful idea, that the trophy is in the mind, not in the prize.

   So I guess the message here is that you can make your own fun out of almost anything, and the drama and excitement is out there--yours for the taking. The trophy is in your head, not in your possessions. What makes things valuable is not just what they are, but what they mean to you.
  But mostly I think this was a learning experience for me. I found myself obsessed with something simply because I chose to be, and because this was something that appealed to the kind of person I am at the core: someone who apparently likes scheming and seeing the secrets of how things work.

Thanks, everyone!

Thank you to Get Schooled and Nickelodeon for putting this on and being so generous, and answering my nervous emails!

Thank you to all the contestants who worked hard to animate and submit their shorts. It's hard work, keep it up!

Thank you to those People's Choice contestants who battled for the top spot. I had so much fun scheming about how to defeat you all, and I hope we can all have a good laugh about it. No hard feelings! You are all amazing!

And a special thanks to all those voters who faithfully voted for me every day. I literally couldn't have won without you guys. Thank you so much!

(And thanks to Shawn for helping me with programming the charts for this blog.)

I can't thank everyone enough for making the Nickfluence competition as fun as it was. I'm even thinking about trying again next year... Eh. We'll see. ;)

Please check out my next post to learn more about what was in the Swag Box!



Friday, October 9, 2015

Nickfluence Animation Challenge UPDATE

HEYYYYY, everyone!

So a lot has happened in the Nickfluence People's Choice competition since my last post. I almost don't even know where to begin!

I encourage you to read my last post if you want any context, or
 my thoughts and opinions on the Entries themselves.

I'll start with my interactive Leaderboards (I update these daily).

The first graph is the most interesting, because it shows the rate of increase for each Entry in the contest.
Let me give you a play-by-play so you can understand the highlights so far.

   October 6th is when the People's Choice competition went from being a game to a war. This is the day when Priscilla (Don't Give Up) made the first power-move and gained over 300 votes in one day. This is a turning point in the competition because Priscilla gained such a substantial lead that even front-runner contestants like Christina ("Thank You") showed a loss in votes because of discouragement. Who could compete with her then when she had such a lead? It seemed impossible.

(Meanwhile, I continued to walk along, and I managed to emerge from the rabble of lost souls under 250 votes. That is where the majority of Entries remain.)

Over the next couple days, things got even more heated. On Oct. 7th, a new short appeared-- "Stages of Life" by Abby (the short must have been late because of moderators approving the short late or something). Abby managed to garner over 400 votes in her first day, which is terrifying. I had only managed to get to 271 that day, and she surpassed me very quickly.

Now here is when it gets crazy.

I was walking to my job yesterday obsessing over this (I have fun obsessing over things like this even if I know it's mostly a nebulous competition. Just humor me here. ;P ) And I was thinking about the sheer amount of votes that these contestants are able to garner in so short a time.

For the record, I want to mention that I have NO real reason to believe that any contestants are "cheating" by changing their IP addresses and voting multiple times. I don't believe anyone is cheating because 1) I spoke with another contestant and she divulged how she was truly able to do it, and 2) I was able to garner votes myself so I know that the most efficient way to get votes is to "go viral" within a circle of influence. Meaning if you can get 300 people to click on something simultaneously, then you just got 300 votes. So if a boss sends a company email, for instance, than you've got a viral spike on your hands.

I thought to myself, "How am I going to compete with this? If I actually want to challenge these guys, then I can't just "play games". This is make or break. This is not a game, this is going to have to be a war or I have no chance. I am going to have to make my own power-moves if I want any chance of seeing 1st place." And so from then on, I resolved that I was all in. I was going to make some serious moves. Because according to the numbers, I could never get along with 50-60 votes per-day. I was going to have to get hundreds  of votes every day. More like 300-400 at least.

So what did I do? Well, the funny thing is I don't feel like I did much.

I wrote out a comically inspirational (but totally sincere) speech and directed it to my Facebook and Google+ friends. Then both of my brothers solicited their large fan-bases and circles of influence for support. Soon enough, within several hours of doing so, I was going "viral" and I made over 200 votes that night. And that's when I realized: that's how it's done. These are the weapons with which this war is fought: inspiration-fueled solicitation shared from person to person. And that is the power that can get you hundreds of votes in a couple hours.

But during the same time, another player was making their move.

During the course of Oct 8th, Ellen (Of Dragons and Men) made probably the biggest move yet--making well over 500 votes and continuing the next day until she was well into the 1,000's. Whatever dark powers she invoked, I do not yet know. Ellen, if you're reading this, I'd love to hear about it.

And that leaves us at today. Today Priscilla is over 2,000, Ellen is into the 1,000's, and I am almost in the 1,000's myself.

Is this what the "People's Choice" competition was meant to be? No. But is that what it's become? Absolutely yes. This has become an entirely different game. And if it's a war my competitors want, it's a war they'll get. ;)

So best of luck to all of you.

And if you're not voting for yourself, make sure to vote for my short!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Nickfluence Animation Challenge!


I was busy all last month both animating my entry for the Nickfluence Animation Challenge and deciding if I really wanted to go through with it. But thanks to some encouraging words I actually went through with it and mostly finished my short. I submitted it to the Nickfluence website with literally 3 minutes to spare. I didn't get to color my short or completely clean it up, but I did it and I'm proud. You can watch my short here! Vote for it, and tell me what you think. I'll probably make another post later to show my rough animation and talk a little bit about the process of making my short.

(So the way this works, is the general public votes right here for their favorite entry to win the "People's Choice Award" which is just Nickelodeon merchandise and the possibility of getting their short on TV. The Grand Prize winner is chosen by Nickelodeon and that Award is a $25,000 scholarship.)

So what I wanted to do here was to offer my thoughts on a lot of the shorts in the competition and to show you how much fun I've made out of this. I mean, seriously, I like making my own little exciting drama out of stuff like this, so if it seems like I'm WAY too into this, then know that I agree with you, but I don't care. ;)

The Shorts

So just a small warning, I want to acknowledge how amazing I think every contestant is for entering in this competition. I may be brutally honest about shorts at some point, so take my words with a grain of salt. Regardless of whether I think your short is one of my "favorites" or not, just know that you're amazing and you should keep animating. Animation is amazing, so keep practicing and blow us away!

There were 41 entries submitted to the College competition. To me, it looks like there are three types of shorts:
  1. Shorts that I personally like
  2. Shorts that are front-runners in People's Choice votes
So looking at the entries, I can see that about 8 or 9 of them are ones I personally like, then there are a couple middle ones that are winning (Don't hate 'em, don't love 'em. Although one in particular is very weak compared to the others), and then the rest of the shorts have fallen by the wayside.

I thought it'd be fun to offer some opinions on some of my favorite shorts. Then I'll talk about the actual People's Choice competition, which is another animal entirely.

The general theme of the competition was "How has Nickelodeon changed your life?" But they gave contestants freedom to create whatever they wanted

  1. My all-time favorite short in the competition is MountainMan. It may not have any relation to the actual Nickelodeon theme, but I think it succeeds in every other way. The animation is actually very very good, especially in the passage of time sequence with the sun (brilliant). I love how eerie and atmospheric it manages to be. It's also fully colored and cleaned up. Honestly, this reminds me of Adventure Time, and I wouldn't think twice if this aired on that show. It would blend right in.
    I haven't managed to get a hold of the creator, but if you're out there Mr. Downs, good job. It's a wonderful short.
  2. "My Nickfluence" is another good short, but it actually fits the theme perfectly. I actually think this short has very good chances at winning the Grand Prize because of its polish and content. It's colorful and finished looking, and captures the "Nickfluence" theme wonderfully with the bookend theme of an animator inspiring future animators. I could see Nickelodeon showing this off as their winner. My only qualm with it is that it doesn't have a lot of "full animation", it usually shows very limited movement. But that's not neccessarily wrong, and has nothing to do with its qualifications to Nickelodeon. In fact, I thought it looked purposeful to have limited movement. But I just like seeing more full animation. But you can't have everything, and that's okay.
    I actually reached out to the creator about how I liked the short, and she was very appreciative, and even offered her thoughts on my own short. Sportsmanship!
  3. "Clucky's Birthday Surprise" is a very different short from the rest of the entries. It shows a strong understanding of acting, which no other shorts went for. It's just a one-on-one conversation with back-and-forth banter the whole time. This only works because the voice acting sounds so natural and the animation is pretty good at capturing it. This short actually reminds me of something I'd see on an improv acting stage where two characters just keep going off of eachother and nobody "tags" them out. Good stuff!
  4. "I'm Nickfluenced" is actually really close to my own short, but unfortunately it looks less finished than mine. In the description, the creator mentions CalArts, and that makes perfect sense. The drawing style does have that House Style look to it, and the watercolor look looks amazing. I'm really impressed with the idea to do things in 3 slices. It's really smart, I just wish she were able to finish it more!
  5. "The Rockstar" has some good animation, but I don't have that much to say about it. Good short.
  6. "Gotta Go Fast" is the only CG entry in the College competition, so think that deserves some recognition. And it made me laugh a couple times.
  7. "Underwater Adventure" has some amazing animation, and it's done with pencil-on-paper which is awesome. I love the moment from when she goes underwater to when the octopus shows up. The floating/swimming animation is awesome, and the Take when she sees the fish is sooooo gooooood.
  8. ""Stages of Life" actually came in late, probably because the moderators took longer to approve it. I actually like this short a lot. There's a good amount of real animation, color, and an upbeat attitude that I like. It's very easy to follow and feel excited about when you watch it. And I love how the individual's style shows through each of the characters, rather than trying to draw them all "on model". Good short!
  9. Breaking the Shell: My Nickfluence has some amazing animation. It's really short, but I think it probably has the most "full" animation in the whole competition. It looks great.
  10. Matter has some really good effects animation and perspective stuff.
  11. Tongue Tied is a good cartoon-y short--the animation is good. There's way too many stock sound effects though.
  12. "What's My Nickfluence?" has a whole lot of tests in it. It's basically like a demo reel. Some of them are pretty decent. I actually like watching the rotoscope tests the most, they're really well done.
So those are my favorites. But I've quickly learned that there is not much relation to how "good" I think a short is and how many votes it gets. Impressing Nickelodeon is one thing, but the People's Choice voting competition is a completely different game.

The People's Choice voting competition

When voting opened on Sept. 28th, the website's voting system was actually broken. But I think I was the first one to vote for myself (I'M NOT ASHAMED!) and I became the "Current Leader" for a day. I think "My Nickfluence" also got a vote later that day.

Basically, the problem with the site was that the voting system is supposed to accept 1 vote per IP address per day, but it accidentally accepted 1 vote per entry EVER. Whoops!

So after the Nickfluence Team fixed the problem the next day, things quickly changed. Many of those who are in the Top Ten (as I've called it) seem to have gotten there not because of unbiased passersby who show up to vote on what they think is the best short, but because they rally together their friends and family to vote for their short. At least, that's what I assume the front-runners have been doing.

There's no shame in that, that's the only way to get ahead, because nobody has really heard about this competition anyways. So this has become a battle of the fan bases. Everyone is rallying support from every social network they can muster-- Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Reddit, friends, churches. It's funny how much effort we can give for a mystery Swag Box (with an estimated value of $500 I might add...curious...)
So here's the fun part, I have been compiling the data since Oct. 1st to track the progress of all the Entries in the competition. I'll keep updating the results right here.

Here is the Leaderboard I'll be keeping up to date. 

The first three days are mostly fabricated numbers from my mind. I only remember roughly who was and wasn't in the lead at those points. But from Oct 1st on I have been recording the votes every morning.
So as you can see, I am having way too much fun with this. ;)

But seriously, what is most interesting about this is how many votes "Thank You", "Mugman", and "Don't Give Up" are managing to garner. "Thank You" and "Don't Give Up" are particularly surprising. They actually seem to be getting an average of 50-60 votes per day-- much more than anyone else is managing. I'm assuming this is a testament to some kind of fan base, or just dedicated friends and family. I don't expect they would want to give away their secrets, but hey, if you're reading this then I want whatever you've got. ;)

Not to knock my own friends and family, but I've been shouting at everyone to vote for me, and then my friends and family have been doing the same, and I have only just broken 100 votes yesterday afternoon. I'm pretty impressed with the sheer momentum that the Top 3 have been able to achieve (although it seems "Mugman" is losing steam very quickly).

Even though I am beginning to doubt that I can win the People's Choice Award, I'm not going to give up. I believe in my short, and the competitive side of me wants to beat everyone else wholesale. And it's just so fun to care about something a lot and fight for something. ;)

Even if I don't win the People's Choice Award or the Grand Prize, I'm still glad that I entered in this competition. It's been so much fun making my first animated short, and it's been really fun seeing what everyone else is doing. 
To all the other contestants, I wish you good luck. But I'm not going to go down without a fight! I may be at the bottom of the Top 10, but if my momentum is any indication, I'll be fighting for #5 or #6 soon enough. 

And don't hesitate to leave a comment and tell me what you think! I have been enjoying keeping in touch with some of the contestants, and I love to hear what you think!

God bless!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Forgotten songs

I just discovered a bunch of old songs that I recorded hidden deep within the forgotten corners of my computer files. I totally forgot that I recorded most of these, so it's a really fun surprise to find that I made a bunch of stuff. I don't know why I never "finished" these and showed them to anyone.

These are all really raw and crappily made, but I think there's something good about them. I recorded these in my room with a cheap and tiny microphone using Audacity.

The Left 4 Dead covers I made for a project that never happened (yet??).

I mostly remember doing the L4D songs, but I barely remember making these.

I also attempted to record the "Clock Town" theme from "The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask" for a Videosong competition, but for whatever reason, all those files got totally jumbled up and confused. I have some of the screwed up files and video files, but I don't think they're worth hashing together.

I also seem to have begun recording the Wind Waker theme, but never finished it. I think I'll finish it and publish that later. :)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


My friends and I thought we'd have some fun playing a Star Wars based role-playing game. I love playing games like D&D because I like to imagine characters and make up stories.

I threw together an animation to visualize how my droid character would work.

The idea is basically like John Silver from Treasure Planet. His arm swaps out for different accessories and weapons.