Make Every Word Count

A To Z Photography

One problem I have in writing is that I tend to go overboard with what I want to get down on paper. As I begin an assignment I will look over the rubric, and the first thing I tend to locate is how the word count is defined. When I started college it was always scary to see a 1000 word minimum posted, but now I find it even worse to see there is a maximum word count. Before starting college I was terrified of writing, however I eventually realized I possessed a decent set of writing skills. My professors praised my achievements, but even then I wondered how it all began. How did I become proficient enough in writing to get an A on that first college paper?

Well, I was trained by a group of people I call my friends, though I have never met many of them. During high school I was a member of several online forums, including one now defunct site, called the Bounty Hunter Collective. This site was essentially my virtual home. When I joined the forum I could hardly type, nor would I ever go back and revise my work. Through many years of belonging to that forum, and a lot of toleration by the membership there, they essentially guided me along, slowly teaching me the basics of writing, while at the same time embracing my obscure attempts at humor.

Additionally, I was able to read thousands of their well thought out posts. This gave me a good handle on how decent writing could be accomplished, and how people can be critical of topics in a good way. The forum also exposed me to how some members could write  intriguing stories, like Big Red, a member who frequently shared several pages of his personal experiences. Through these means I was not only reading a lot more material than most people my age, but I was also learning many facets of writing, which would pay dividends later in college.

Once I started my career in higher education, I found a passion for writing essays and term papers. During my high school years I was home schooled, and had never even wrote a full length essay. Likewise when I took the ACT I refrained from taking the written portion because I was so afraid I would be a horrible writer. Now, many years later, I have a minor in creative writing, and have even been nominated for several awards in the same field. I have also penned a main stage play for my first college, and a few professors have even recommended that I try to get some of my short stories and poems published.

It took me years to realize just how ridiculous I was, barely posting in English as a young kid, but I am forever thankful for the support and understanding the members on that site showed me. It was through their guidance I was able to learn to type and to also have a better understanding of sophisticated writing. I may not have known it then, but their efforts to teach me their ways of writing have paid off tremendously. Had it not been for that crew, I would have never been prepared to maintain a 4.0 GPA for 12 semesters, let alone go into communication and creative writing.


Podcasting and Passion

JitteryMonkey Joe Dodd
Jittery Monkey – Joe Dodd

A few months ago my friends Matt and Sierra, along with myself, decided that we wanted to branch out into a new medium. We are all on social media like Facebook and Twitter, however this was something new. For me, I was barely even familiar with this new outlet, just knowing the few basics that went along with it. I was honestly even a bit skeptical that we could pull it off. However, once we were in the studio, everything seemed to run smoothly. I believe I can speak for everyone in that the experience was not only a fun one, but that we were also able to bond as friends. That medium was podcasting, and in an unexpected way, it has broadened my horizons.

One idea that I really liked about doing a podcast was the creativity and excitement we could bring to the show. Matt and I usually have fairly intense talks about various subjects, and I knew we could bring that same mood to our audience each week. Likewise, Sierra is well prepared to deal with both of our antics, so she would be more than able to keep up with us, however we did face one problem: what would our show be about?

On a random day we sat down during lunch, and began talking about what subject matter we could talk about on our show. Sierra loves literature, so she absolutely wanted to talk about the books she is currently reading. Matt enjoys video games, as well as comic books. For me, as previous blog posts may indicate, I like collecting action figures. After about a half hour of discussion we still could not find common ground between all of our hobbies. We decided to move on, in an effort to come up with a title for our show.

We started naming off potential titles, collectively brainstorming (as well as we could manage mid-semester). After about fifteen minutes we were finally about to give up, but then Matt said he wanted popcorn featured in our future logo. After a few witty remarks between the three of us we finally had our title. It was kind of silly, kind of cool, and I think it fits us well. We were suddenly the PoppedCulture Podcast.

With that, we also realized we weren’t limited to just one topic. We no longer had to find some sort of mythical common ground between the three of us. Instead, our topics could be numerous. We could talk about anything pop culture, which could range from toys to movies, all the way to books and anything beyond. By expanding our horizons to various subjects our group was able to figure out that we did not require a specific focus. We opened ourselves up to new topics, which not only gave us a distinct area we could each speak on, but it also gave each of us an individual voice. Likewise, we all had something to learn from one other, as we weren’t exactly familiar with each other’s topics.

Personally, before starting the podcast, I had not picked up a comic for years. Nor had I thought about reading novels or seeing more movies. However now that we are several months into the show (despite a hiatus), I feel more open to the idea of reading and watching new films. I also feel more connected to my friends, because I am able to hear about their passions, and how much they enjoy their hobbies. This was essentially a side effect I had never expected, however I welcome the idea of being closer to my friends and what they love.

JitteryMonkey group
Photograph by Sierra Horst

I had never really considered this until we were recording this week’s show, and I was speaking about a photonovel I am working on (look for more information in a future blog post or listen to PoppedCulture episode 7). Matt said something along the lines of “man, I’m really into this idea; I might want to check it out myself sometime”. It was then that I realized that not only were my interests rubbing off on Matt, but the opposite was happening as well. I was becoming interested in his hobby of comic books, as well as Sierra’s love for books. For me, there is something really special about that idea. Before the show I kind of just acknowledged movies or comics, but now that I see why others enjoy them so much, I too am open to checking out new movies or going to the comic shop.

Perhaps there’s a lot more people could enjoy on this world if they just share with others. Previously I would have never considered looking at comics, trying to watch more movies, or reading a novel. However, by talking with others about their hobbies, I have definitely broadened my own horizons. I’ve started considering more venues of creativity than what I previously enjoyed. Likewise, I am able to feed off the ideas others share with me. As unexpected as this is, I am hands down embracing it, and I believe others should as well. People should start talking about what they love more openly, because you might just find yourself with a new passion in life: sharing with your friends.



The State of Things

A To Z Photography

It has been several months since my last Hasbro related post, however I would like to return to that same topic with a brief follow-up. Since my last post I now have an apartment in Edwardsville, IL. This has allowed me to browse both a Super Walmart, as well as a Target store about twice a week. By monitoring the stock of both stores I have been able to make several conclusions that both support and enhance my past observations, which I will go into shortly. However, overall I do not think the situation has become any better for Star Wars (or action figure) collectors.

One major issue is still the lack of new product in stores. You can visit just about any Walmart and find the same spattering of products. I have viewed many pictures shared by my fellow collectors, and it seems the majority of Walmart stores, no matter what their location, always have the same product selection. Unfortunately, many of these items hail from 2012 assortments. The demand for these items are small, if non-existent entirely. Despite their presence on the shelves now going on three years, they still have not been clearanced out. Stores will be hard pressed to clear these items until this occurs. To further escalated the problem, many of these figures share the same database code as the new items. As far as stores are concerned, Star Wars figures are not selling, and there is no need to re-order case assortments because the shelves are stocked with at least some type of product.

A To Z Photography

One aspect that I had not given attention to in the past is forecasting. For my last blog post I received several comments and emails. One reader named “RJ” brought something up I had not considered before. I was putting too much blame on the wrong element of Hasbro’s business practices. Not only is distribution poor, but so is proper forecasting of products. It does not take much consideration to realize this is true. Recently I heard a Hasbro representative say there is not an Indiana Jones-esque warehouse where Hasbro has stored figures, and I believe that I’m prepared to accept that as truth. I am also prepared to acknowledge that someone in the company has no idea what fans or kids really want to buy.

It is my understanding that forecasting is the research that Hasbro does, and that data indicates what figures the company should make, as well as how many they should produce. Mostly, Hasbro makes decent choices for figures that are put into production. Though there have been many occasions where people would like to see more obscure figures put into circulation, I totally understand that not every single character can be cast in plastic. Likewise I get that many main character must be produced to maintain a core appeal to the general population. However, I also believe it is fairly obvious what figures should not be over produced.

A prime example is that of Black Series Biggs Darklighter. He is a character that a lot of people purchased a few years back when he was offered, which put the demand for a resculpt of this guy fairly low on the list of demands. Hasbro released him in the first wave of the Black Series, where he suffered as a poor choice. Not only did few collectors have no desire for an updated Biggs, but he was packed two per case. This of course was while more in demand figures were only packed in singles. Many of the Biggs figures did not sell, and because of even more forecasting issues (or over production), Biggs was again featured in wave two of the Black Series. To further the problem of orange jumpsuited figures hanging on the shelves, both waves four and five also featured Rebel pilots, but it is not likely they will pegwarm, as few stores have even stocked these assortments.

A To Z Photography

I will note that Toysrus did offer Bigg’s X-wing vehicle at the same time the single figure was offered, however that does not quite add up either. The logic seems to indicate Hasbro thought people would purchase both as counterparts to one another. They essentially flooded the market with Biggs figures in hope that people would purchase it to go with the vehicle, however they over looked one simple idea: not everyone has a Toysrus in their town. Therefore all stores, Walmarts, Targets, and the like, received the figure, where it sat until the packaging broke and they were clearanced out as a damaged products (see “The Force Is Not Strong With Hasbro” for further information). Hasbro’s forecast for demand was totally off, and the stores suffered because if this.

Another issue with forecasting is that the company has still not heard the demands of their people. The vast majority of collectors I know would like to see nice playsets offered, however Hasbro has yet to come up with anything. They believe childrens’ play patterns indicate they have no desire for playsets, however they do apparently want Star Wars Command figures. The Command line is one of Hasbro’s many niche lines which always seem to fail. Similar to the Angry Birds line, these items do not sell, and only go to show how out of touch Hasbro is with their consumers, both adults and children alike.

Hasbro has still not fully acknowledged a problem exists, and I sometimes wonder if they ever will. I realize these issues cannot be solved over night, but I would like to think the first step of correcting these flaws are to try to understand what is happening, and why there is so much negative emotion towards the company as a whole. By talking to fans, understanding how they see the issues, and by investigating the lack of products in stores, I believe Hasbro could easily turn the company around and have a good relationship with collectors.