Archive for the 'Where I Go Online' Category


Play This: Santa Rockstar 3

Today was my last day of work for the year. Our Christmas vacation has begun, which is nice. It also means I’m absolutely exhausted. So I haven’t really had a lot of time to read, watch, play with, eat, or otherwise experience a lot of Christmas stuff for you guys.

So today, I’d just like to point you to an online game I discovered a few weeks ago: Santa Rockstar 3. This is, apparently, the third iteration of this “Guitar Hero” knock-off where you play as Santa Claus and rock it to assorted Christmas songs. It’s a fun little way to kill time, if you’ve got time to kill. Which I really haven’t lately. I need a nap.

Also, let me remind you that I wrote a Christmas book, which you can get for $2.99 on any major eBook platform.

And as longtime readers of this site know, it’s my little tradition to write a new Christmas short story every year. But this year, that’s not what happened.

I wrote two.

“Lucky Penny” and “The Stowaway” will be available as a free eBook sometime in the next couple of days — I’ll let you know. My little Christmas gift to you. (And like all Christmas gifts it will be a limited time only. Get it while it’s free, because in January the price will go up to a wallet-crushing 99 cents.)

Okay, Love you guys. I’m going to bed.


Halloween Party: The Ghostman and Demon Hunter Show

As you know, I not only make a lot of podcasts, I also listen to a lot of podcasts. And despite the sheer number of them that I listen to, it seems I’m always looking for new ones. Enter the Ghostman and Demon Hunter Show. Shaun Burris and Nathan Schoonover host this weekly internet talk show where they interview experts in the field of paranormal investigations, specifically the practice of attempting to contact the spirits of the dead.

To be honest, I’m not entirely sure where I stand on this phenomenon. I don’t like to preach religion or politics here, but I will tell you that I don’t believe this life is the be-all and end-all of existence. And once you believe that, no matter what else you may believe, is it that big a stretch to think that some of the departed may attempt to contact the living from time to time? The real question, to me, is whether or not there is any legitimacy to those who style themselves investigators of the paranormal, or the techniques they use.

While I don’t think this show will necessarily convince anybody who’s a skeptic, or for that matter, anybody who wants to believe, I think if you’re open to the possibility it is fun to listen to. Burris and Schoonover have a good chemistry with one another, and the experts they bring onto the show always have a different, unique perspective to offer. They discuss different phenomenon, the different equipment ghost hunters tend to use, they play EVP recordings on the show (EVP, short for Electronic Voice Phenomena, is a term that refers to anomylous sounds picked up on audio recordings that some believe to be attempts by apparitions to contact the living) and have a lot of testimonies from people who claim to have had contact with those on the Other Side.

It’s kind of long for a podcast — the weekly episodes often approach the two hour range — and for some reason Shaun often litters the opening segments of the show with the sort of goofy sound bytes and audio clips that morning DJs throw on the radio and made me turn off the radio and start listening to podcasts in the first place. But once I got past those sometimes frustrating moments into the real content, the show does provide food for thought. Even if there’s nothing to the phenomenon, if nothing else, listening to the show has given me a few ideas for segments of The Curtain. If you’re interested in this sort of thing at all, give it a listen.


Join us at the new!

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this here lately, but I wanted to make sure everybody knew abou the changes to my internet home for the past seven years, A few weeks ago, you see, due to what amounts to a clerical snafu, our domain name expired and we haven’t been able to contact the people with the information we need to reaquire it. Somewhere, in the midst of getting the site running again, the idea of changing the name started to drift around. “Comixtreme” definitely had a 90s flair to it. On the other hand, we’d been branding ourselves at “CX” for ten years (three before I joined the site). We wanted to keep that part of the name, while at the same time, coming up with a title that was more evocative of the new site, and the fact that in addition to comics, we also cover movies and TV, video games, and even books without pictures now.

So head on over to the new! Reviews, columns, the 2 in 1 Showcase podcast, and all the pop culture commentary and discussion you could ask for.



  • If there’s anything that can — however temporarily — get me to turn my attention from the Olympics, it’s a new episode of LOST. The final season of the show has been one mindbender after another, and I’m loving every minute of it. As I type this, I’m watching this week’s episode a tad late, thanks to a Playhouse board meeting I’m just arriving home from.
  • Wendy’s new “Bacon and Bleu” burger looks pretty good. At least, it does if you like bleu cheese on a hamburger. I do. However, I know in my heart of hearts that the burger in real life will never possibly live up to the image on the commercial. It just isn’t fair, consarn it.
  • After some deliberation about whether or not to get a smartphone, I have decided instead to get an iPod Touch and upgrade my cell phone to a simpler model. The iPod does everything that I would want a smartphone for, and it has no monthly service plan. Granted, unlike a smartphone, with the Touch I’ll be limited to using the internet connection in places I can get a wireless signal, but that’s not really a big deal. More and more public places are getting hooked up for WiFi all the time, including most of the places I’d be likely to use such a device. I think I’ve found an affordable compromise.
  • Started teaching Romeo and Juliet to my ninth graders this week. I’m a little blase on the subject. Not that it’s a bad play, but you’ve gotta remember, the kids only have to learn it once. I’ve got to teach it three times a day, every year. I wish we could rotate our Shakespeare. Do Romeo and Juliet one year in ninth grade, the next year switch to Julius Caesar, the next, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Just something to keep the teachers from getting burned out. It’s easier with short stories and poems, there are more to choose from and you can mix it up. And we cover the same epic every year, but somehow, I never get tired of The Odyssey. It’s just drama that runs the risk of draining my batteries.
  • Like you don’t have enough social media websites to worry about already, earlier today I got turned on to thanks to J.C. Hutchins’ Hey Everybody Podcast. This isn’t an attempt to horn in on Twitter or Facebook like Google Buzz. Rather, it’s a site where you can rate and discuss virtually all forms of entertainment — books, movies, TV shows, music, and so forth. It does combine the efforts of other websites like Goodreads and Flixter, but it’s the first time I’ve seen an all-in-one site like that. It’s cool, though. If you’re on it, go ahead and friend me. The name is blakemp. (And please, “like” my novels Other People’s Heroes and The Beginner so that they’ll start being recommended to people.) And no, I have no idea what “Get Glue” refers to.

Where I Find Free eBooks

As I often mention my Kindle (the eReader of my dreams), I’ve often found myself explaining that an awful lot of the content on my particular device — 375 different files at present, most of them full-length books  — was come by perfectly legally, and totally free of charge. I’m A bit of a fanatic about this. It comes from being a writer myself, I suppose, but I refuse to support illegal downloading — books, movies, music, what have you. Every eBook that I’ve downloaded for free falls into one of two categories. Either it’s offered legitimately by the author or publisher, or it’s a book in the public domain and no longer under copyright by anybody. And if you think this would limit my options, you’re very mistaken. Here are some of the sites where I find my eBooks, totally for free.

  • — Surprisingly, there are an awful lot of books available free of charge from Amazon. Many of them are public domain books, others are the first book in a series which is about to launch a new volume, and others are simply unknown authors trying to get an audience built. I’ve found some gems here.
  • Online Novels — This page is a directory of books available for free online, and links to many, many other sources. It’s good if you’re looking for a specific book or genre.
  • — The self-publisher’s best friend,, offers several books as a free PDF download. By the nature of the site, pretty much all of the authors are unknown, but you can find good stuff if you look.
  • — The site that hosts my own eBook, A Long November, hosts books both by self-publishing authors and by several small publishers. Many of them are free, and others are labelled “you set the price,” which basically means the download is free, but they accept tips.
  • Free Kindle — This site takes versions of books created by Project Gutenberg and releases them in Kindle format. The PG books are public domain, and I’ve gotten a lot of classics here. Frankenstein, Dracula, Charles Dickens, Williams Shakespeare — lots of old, good stuff.
  • — Like Smashwords, this site hosts a lot of self-published authors. Like Free Kindle Books, it has a lot of stuff in the public domain. Not every book, however, is available in every format. So make sure you’re downloading a book that will work on your device, whatever that happens to be.
  • — Not actually an eBook site, but partnered with Smashwords, is the place where authors go to distribute their work as free audiobooks, in podcast form. My first podcast novel (also A Long November) came out through Podiobooks, and I hope that when I’ve got Cross-Purposes ready to go, it will find a home there too.

More of Where I Go Online: Thom Zahler, Cakewrecks, Toycutter and The Anonymous Teacher

It’s been a while since I did one of these posts, but I thought it would be nice to update you guys on some of the websites that have crept onto my radar in recent months and become regular visits for me. This is the stuff that is occupying my time when I should be writing, grading tests, or otherwise having normal social contact with other human beings. I know. I’m appalled too.

Love and Capes Volume 1: Do You Want to Know a Secret?Thom Zahler, creator of the greatest comic book you haven’t read yet, Love and Capes, also maintains the creatively-titled Thom Zahler Weblog. Much of the site is Love and Capes-related content, including sneak previews, sketches, and general commentary about the creation of the comic. As a true lover of the comic, that would be more than enough. But Zahler also shares other pieces of art — commissions from readers, commercial art he’s created for other people, and so forth. Along with the occasional more personal post, it’s a wonderful sight with a great insight into one of my favorite comic creators in the biz.

Erin and my sister both recommended this site to me: On this site, people submit photographs of truly disastrous attempts at cake decoration. There’s a caveat, though — these are ostensibly all professional jobs, cakes made for sale, and not the result of an amateur decorator screwing up in the kitchen. Some of the cakes are funny because of how hideous they are, some have amusing misspellings or misquotations, and some are simply horrific because you can’t believe any human being would actually request such a thing. Jen, the site’s esteemed hostess, provides commentary that’s even funnier than the cakes themselves. It’s a great site.

I’ve also become quite a fan of On this blog, readers submit photographs of custom-made toys and action figures. Some of the work is incredibly impressive, and when the creator shares the how-to process behind the toys, it’s even more amazing. It’s similar to the website I’ve mentioned here before, which is a site dedicated to the Disney Vinylmation toy line, and includes a section of custom figures, including (currently) four by my own sister, Heather.

And finally, here’s a site for all of my compatriots in the world of Academia. The Anonymous Teacher is a pretty new site crafted by a friend of mine to allow teachers to get together and share horror stories, funny stories, inspiring stories — basically the stories about what it’s really like to be a teacher that most of you never really hear as a parent or student. The site has only been online for a few weeks, so it’s still building a backlog of stories, but if you’ve ever been a teacher or ever had a teacher, check it out and see some of the adventures and misadventures our country’s fine educators have had to experience.


He-Man and She-Ra: A Christmas Special

As we head into the final few days of the Christmas Party, I’m planning to hit you guys up with a review of the new DVD of the greatest Christmas special of all time. Before I do that, though, I’m going to subject you to one of the worst specials ever. Worse than A Family Circus Christmas, not quite as bad as Frosty Returns… ladies and gentlemen, He-Man and She-Ra: A Christmas Special.

The original He-Man and the Masters of the Universe series premiered in 1984, approximately 11 seconds after the FCC made it legal to base a television show on a toy character.  I was seven years old, and at the prime age to become a fan both of the TV show and the umpty-twelve billion action figures. (Note to the people making toys these days — see, here’s the way to do it. Don’t just put Batman in 67 different ridiculous costumes in order to make action figures, actually come up with 67 different characters in ridiculous costumes.) He-Man was popular enough to spin-off a show with his previously unseen, unmentioned, unimagined sister, She-Ra, Princess of Power. Actually, she was princess of Etheria, but “Power” has a better ring to it.

At the time, this was the greatest TV show since sliced bread (we watched The Sliced Bread Show every afternoon at 5:30 on Channel 26), and I watched it religiously until G.I. Joe and The TransFormers took over their prime spot in my young, burgeoning geek heart. Having gone back and watched some of these shows as an adult, I would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank my parents, my friends’ parents, and the parents of every child of approximately my age for actually watching this stuff. My lord, we subjected you to some crap back then. (I do not, however, apologize for the original TransFormers: The Movie, because that bad boy still holds up.)

Anyway, in this special, He-Man and She-Ra, in their so-lame-it-makes-Superman-feel-better-about-himself disguises of Prince Adam and Princess Adora, are planning to celebrate their birthday, which just happens to take place near the Earth holiday called “Christmas.” Their mother, being an astronaut from Earth that wound up on some other planet and decided to shack up with the king, is a little homesick this time of year, but everyone is busy paying attention to their efforts at a new planetary defense system, which somehow wound up carrying the world’s worst sorcerer, Orko, off to Earth. He picks up a couple of human kids with the sort of ease that Michael Jackson can only dream of, and before you can say “Merchandising Tie-In,” the three of them were whisked back off to Eternia. Since it’s going to take some time to get them back to Earth, everyone decides it’d be swell to have a Christmas celebration for them, which evidently never occurred to Adam or Adora when it was just their mother who missed Christmas.

When word gets out that a Christmas party is in the works, the respective bad guys from the two TV shows — Skeletor and Hordak — are whisked off to meet their boss, Generic Cartoon Super-Supervillains #14. He informs them, quite simply, that Christmas is bad, and they need to get those damn kids. Skeletor is the one who actually accomplishes this, but as he’s bringing them off to the big boss, the combination of their Christmas cheer and the weird blue robot dog that tags along with them begins to melt his heart.

It was at this part that I realized Skeletor, one of the coolest-looking action figures ever made, the figure that gave a generation of children nightmares, the very grim spectre of death itself, is one of the worst supervillains of all time. I mean, look at this! The dog is licking his face, and he clearly is enjoying it! Right there on the DVD cover! Come on, man, have a little self-respect! A few years ago, they did a new version of the He-Man cartoon, which I watched one time and turned off in disgust at how obnoxious and whiny Skeletor was. At the time, I hadn’t watched the original series in a good 15 years. Now that I’ve gone back and watched this special, I realized that… yeah, the New Skeletor was whinier than the original… but not by much.

Anyway, Skeletor weenies out and saves the kids, then meanders away, deservedly ashamed of himself, and the par-tay continues with everyone having a happy ending, except for the people who actually watched this cartoon. This was just awful. Chase, my 2 in 1 Showcase partner in crime, tells me I need to just get the Best of He-Man DVD, which features a lot of episodes penned by J. Michael Straczynski and Paul Dini, just to prove to myself that there were, in fact, a few good episodes of the show. I’ll do that… eventually.

Having said all that, the DVD wasn’t a total waste. There are two pretty good documentaries on the disc about the creation of He-Man and the moral messages behind the show. They’re actually pretty entertaining (and go a long way towards explaining just why Skeletor was such a weener on the show). I also have to appreciate the fact that they tried to appeal to both boys and girls with this property. These days, you wouldn’t even see a crossover between a toy line for boys and one for girls, let alone a spin-off. C’mon, how many times did you see a G.I. Joe riding My Little Pony? Of course, now that I’ve actually said that, it’ll happen. Blake’s Universal Rule of the Universe #52: As soon as you conceive of a bizarre pairing of two different fandoms, someone on the Internet will write a bad fanfiction about that very thing.

So can I recommend this DVD? Well… maybe, if you’re buying Christmas presents for somebody you really don’t like. Otherwise, friends, this is just solid proof that it’s best to remember how much we loved things as a child, as opposed to actually going back and seeing how terrible they really were.

In other news…

If you guys look at the list of friends’ blogs over on the right-hand side of the page, you’ll see a link to “Michael’s Million.” That actually needs to be updated, as the blog is now called $100,000 Blog. This site is an interesting little experiment to see if the potential of shared revenue can help increase involvement on a blog. Check it out — you may have a chance to win some money.


Where I Go Online: Christmas Party Edition

Man cannot live by DVD alone. He also has to surf around the internet and get sucked in to various entertaining websites. And believe it or not, there are even a few websites I specifically go to just to help get myself into the Christmas spirit. So today, I’m going to point you guys to a few of the sites that help lift my spirits this time of year. You’ve still got nearly a week to check ’em out and get in the mood yourself.’s Advent Calendar

I mentioned X-Entertainment back in my first (and, until now, only) Where I Go Online article as a fun site full of content about the kind of stuff I grew up loving. At Christmas, the site goes all-out with the annual X-Entertainment Advent Calendar. Starting back in 2003, Webmaster Matt began to review the goodies you could get out of the annual Playmobil Advent Calendar toy. Somehow, in 2004, the review began to take on a life of its own, with some of the toys evolving personalities and turning into full-blown characters. A pair of LEGO stormtroopers named Knacks and Kuse became co-stars with a Playmobil doll named Mare Winningham (really), the LEGO version of the Advent calendar joined the Playmobil version, and soon the Advent calendar had developed a fanbase that sits around for 11 months just waiting for the next edition of the calendar. This year’s adventure, involving a circus, a homicidal clown, and the LEGO version of James Lipton begging an alien who has possessed the body of a previous Santa Claus to give him back the red cup he uses for a hat, has been entertaining me since the first of the month. If you like the regular XE articles, you’ve got to spend some time reading through the Advent calendar.

Grant’s Advent Calendar

Speaking of Advent, the next site on my list is Grant’s Advent Calendar. Grant Baciocco hosts this annual video podcast, usually from his laundry room, which features him opening up a door on his Advent Calendar every day and making some sort of commentary on the contents. The trick is, according to Grant’s rules, each video must be done in one take, so he has to wing it as much as possible. There are sometimes other skits involved — for example, this year so far he’s done a film noir mystery, a Roman amphitheater, a backwards episode, and a rap video — but the actual door opening is always on the fly. Grant is also the writer, co-creator and co-star of one of my other favorite podcasts, The Radio Adventures of Dr. Floyd, which is scheduled to have its own Christmas episode any day now. This is a cute little show, usually less than two minutes an episode, and a lot of fun. As a bonus, soundtrack for this podcast inspired me to pick up Jody Whitesides‘s Christmas album, Christmas Future. Lots of great music there — you can get it from iTunes or the music store.

Welcome to the North

Last, but not least, there’s Welcome to the North Pole. I found this site on my Twitter feed when Erin informed me that I could follow no less august a personage than Santa Claus himself. After Santa and I became bestest Twitter buds, he invited me over to his message board. To be honest, I haven’t been frequenting this site like some of the others. The thing is, it’s really geared towards small children and their parents, and I am currently neither. But if you’ve got a kid still young enough to be getting gifts from Santa, the site has a lot of cool features. You can post your Christmas lists, write letters to the big guy, and talk to other parents and kids doing the same thing. And Santa and his elves frequent the board as well, answering letters and questions and keeping you up-to-date on this year’s Christmas preparations. This is the sort of thing I’m not personally all that into, but I’m really glad its there for the sake of those who can use it.


Where I Go Online: Todd Klein, X-Entertainment and Cooper’s Retail Blog

It’s kind of a lazy Friday evening, friends. It was the first week of school, I’m totally worn out, and don’t have much in me in terms of generating content for you guys.

But y’know, I don’t really want to go without posting either. When I launched this site, I warned you I wasn’t going to set the unrealistic goal of posting each and every day. At the same time, however, I don’t feel quite complete unless I’ve dropped in here and chatted with you fine people.

So rather than going cold tonight, I thought I’d tell you guys about some of the blogs that I visit. Clearly, Evertime Realms is the finest place you can go on the entirety of the Internet, but it’ll only last so long. Once you’re done here, where else can you go? Here are a few sites I’ve come to enjoy:

COOPER’S RETAIL BLOG: As I’ve opined before, there are very few comic strips left in the newspaper that I think are worth reading. One of them is Norm Feuti’s Retail, a hysterical strip about the workers at a Walmart-esque superstore called Grumbel’s and their struggles against the likes of irritating customers, an incompetent boss, and a corporate structure that makes no sense. Last year, Feuti did a storyline in which one of the characters, the sarcastic stockboy Cooper, won a few thousand dollars on a scratch-off lottery ticket and used the winnings to buy a laptop computer and start a blog. Lo and behold, the blog turned out to be real. “Cooper” posts frequently, sometimes giving his perspective on events that happened in the strip, sometimes opining about real-life news articles involving various retail outlets, and sometimes doing neat little contests for the readers. (Currently there’s a contest to name Cooper’s scooter, for instance.) It’s a lot of fun, especially if you read it along the comic strip.

TODD’S BLOG: The personal blog of comic book letterer extraordinaire Todd Klein has become a frequent stop for me. The site functions sometimes as just a personal journal blog, sometimes he reviews books and comics, sometimes he promotes upcoming projects. My favorite thing at this site, however, is when he does one of his Logo Studies. Todd will frequently spend several days choosing a comic book property like the X-Men, the Flash, Green Lantern or Spider-Man, and go through every logo the characters have ever used on the covers of their comic books. As a legendary letterer, Todd often had a hand in designing sometimes several of the logos, and provides us with alternate logos that weren’t used, shows us how they were developed, and critiques them all. You wouldn’t think reading so much about letterforms would be that interesting, but I’ve never been less than fascinated by one of his logo studies. He just announced that he’ll soon be doing a new study of the Justice League of America logos. I can’t wait.

X-ENTERTAINMENT: A lot of you probably already know this one. X-Entertainment, contrary to what you may expect from the name, is not an X-Men fansite, or even a comic book site. It’s a site where a guy in his late 20s waxes nostalgic over the cool stuff of his youth, with reviews of old toys, tons of old commercials to download and enjoy, and even commentary on forgotten Kool-Aid flavors. Hands-down, though, this is a site you’ve gotta visit during October and December. Matt, the webmaster, is as big a holiday geek as I am. October is always loaded down with creepy content, and December… ah, December… brings us the annual X-E Advent Calendar, which is actually an epic adventure/comedy series starring two Lego Stormtroopers named Knacks and Kuse and a Playmobil Angel toy that is named after B-list actress Mare Winningham. No, seriously. And it’s the funniest thing in the world. I look as forward to reading the annual Advent Calendar as I do watching Rudolph or Frosty every year. Matt is a couple of years younger than I am, so the stuff he’s nostalgic for often will overlap more with my brother’s tastes than my own (Ninja Turtles, anyone?), but it’s close enough that I can still draw a lot of enjoyment from his site. Now the front page doesn’t get updated too often, but if you click over to the blog, there’s usually some new stuff every couple of days.

More next time, friends!

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