‘What has this yutz been up to?’

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Hey there! It’s been a while.

I was actually a bit surprised to come back and see my last post was Aug. 9. It had felt even longer than that, but a recent e-mail showed me it was time to get back into gear and push some text:

Just a short note to say that I have appreciated your writing (you are bookmarked in my favourites), but I am getting a bit tired of seeing a bear’s behind every time I check your page.  I do realise that you also write elsewhere (and have checked out your gaming articles as my family is big on gaming), but was wondering if you could maybe do a short ‘I’m really busy living my life’ kind of blog to just get the bear off the top.

How could I deny such a simple request? And in case you haven’t noticed, the “bear bottom” commercials are all but non-existent anymore and I don’t want to be the last one foisting that image upon innocent people.

So, why have I not written here for a few months? It’s really not an airtight excuse, but the truth is I’ve been concentrating more on my video games writing, and for an astounding reason.

In August, I decided I should try testing the waters more for a potential career in games journalism. I began to submit work not only to the awesome LeftStickRight, but also a unique open community called Bitmob. I was thrilled to see some of my pieces get feature on Bitmob’s front page, and toward the end of August I saddled up to meet the LeftStickRight boss and other writer to cover FanExpo Canada.

On the way up, at a rest stop, I grabbed a burger and checked my e-mail. There I found a new message from Susan Arendt, senior editor at an online magazine called The Escapist. She had seen my Bitmob submissions, enjoyed them, and thought I should write some stuff for their publication. At that point my brain was carpet bombed my various reasons for elation:

1. Prominent members of the gaming/technology community were actually reading my stuff.

2. They want me to try writing more stuff for more people to read.

3. Apparently, they’d even consider paying me to do it.

Freelance writing has always been one of those ideas wisping through the back of my mind, but I never considered myself a viable candidate. I just never thought I was the sort of “type” editors would be looking for. But now I had someone literally suggesting I try it for them and the feeling that I could somehow make it into this industry became too tangible not to attempt.

So after an incredibly fun time at FanExpo where I took a number of photos  depicting the deaths of Ian Yuan at the hands of cosplayers, I came home and tried my hand. I learned there were no instant assignments; you had to submit short pitches based around various topics and if one caught their eye, they’d order a full-blown article. Luckily, one of the three initial pitches I’ve made was chosen–on silly weaponry in video games–and I went straight to work.

After submitting my draft, I quickly learned The Escapist edits more thoroughly than my newspaper ever has. I received it back with multiple requests and suggestions. What worried me most was Arendt telling me I was trying to be “too cute” at several points. I went back to work, mustering up the confidence that I could produce something better, and she was much happier the second time around. That’s when I realized that she had been right: I was trying to be too cute. In my earnestness in such a new situation, I was trying to fall back on my oldest style of writing, trying to be Dave Barry instead of letting the voice I’ve developed over time be at the forefront. And then I realized that I actually had my writing edited by a prominent member of the gaming/technology community and I gave a little squee. Writers can be weird like that.

The whole process for the piece took around a couple weeks, but it’s been a blast. It will appear in The Escapist this Tuesday, and I’ve been counting the days with much anticipation. Ideally, I’ll gain more exposure and maybe even the attention of people who’d like to give me a full-time gig. At the worst, I’ll be shipped out of the publication’s forums on a rail, but I’ll still make more writing that one piece than I would for a full week of work at the newspaper.

Whatever happens, I really, really hope I get the chance to do it again. But that’s my main reason for not writing: my head has mostly been occupied by this opportunity. I’m hoping that after this all comes to its climax, I’ll be a little more balanced because I don’t want to give this blog up entirely.

Think I managed to bury that bear? If not, then hopefully this picture of a red panda licking a grape can provide some much-needed balance:



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Simple Saturday: What people search to get here

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It’s hard to believe I’ve been at this blog for more than two months now. I love this spunky little guy and I’m proud of what he’s been growing into. He’s been getting good feedback, he’s kept pretty regular and I’m finally getting to the point where I don’t feel the temptation to check his pageview stats three times a day.

Actually, the stat I’ve come to love more is the search terms used by people who’ve stumbled across the site. Not a week goes by that I don’t find one or two that are downright funny or just leave me wondering what this person was really looking for. I’d like to share some choice selections and stats with you. Perhaps you may even recognize some of them, you weirdos:

Apart from “Latshaw Loses It,” the term that brings the most people here is “red panda” or some derivative. It’s pretty surprising since I’ve only written one piece on the critters, but at the same time I’m glad there’s a cult following for them. Even so, perhaps there’s a bit too dedicated of a following, as one person searched “do red pandas have problems.” Are You There, God? It’s Me, Red Panda.

The second-most hit search term, by the way, is “mindless jobs.”

Moving on, I hereby officially apologize to the people with the following search terms, as they were undoubtedly disappointed:

  • “pirate romance stories”
  • “virgin first time stories”
  • “romance stories:virgin in love”

Believe it or not, but my Mario hat piece brought in several searchers, although more often than not the terms included hatmodel Kirby, who apparently has had it in for the plumber for some time:

  • “kirby mario hat”
  • “kirby killing mario”
  • “kirby eating mario”

Finally, the sabotage of the Hadron Collider by a bird piqued the interest of several searchers, some of whom may belong to the unofficial cult of time-traveling demon fighters at which I poked fun:

  • “cern people future bird”
  • “hadron collider time gate”
  • “sweeden collider bird” (good band name?)
  • “hadron gate to hell” (better band name?)

So if you do happen to be from a dystopic future, ha ha, I was only joking! Please don’t leave me here when Cthulu bursts into our dimension…

You don’t have to put on the red (panda) light

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[NOTE: This blog entry contains potentially doofy euphemisms for red pandas engaging in reproductive relations. Blame the guy at the tough questions, as he’s the one who alerted me to the story.]

Anyone who knows me is likely aware that the red panda is my favorite animal. I like to believe there’s a reason two creatures with the title “panda” exist, and that the red version is God’s more successful do-over.

Thus, if any red panda-worthy news happens out there, it’s likely I will either find it or be told of it. This includes, I was amused to find today, news on grassroots efforts to help red pandas have sex.

The folks over at WindyCitizen.com apparently caught wind of the local Lincoln Park Zoo seeking the funds to build nest boxes for their coming red pandas to get some private time for “courting.” So the site, in what I am sure is an entirely serious and conservationist turn devoid of any schoolchild giggling, opened the “Lincoln Park Red Panda Sex Fund.” I’m hoping they ran out of space to make it a sex drive.

Now let’s set some things straight. Red pandas are not prudes. Some are more than happy to engage in public displays of affection. Red pandas also don’t have any problems knowing how to bump fuzzies, unlike their giant cousins. There isn’t going to be any latenight Pandamax channel on in these boxes. However, they do seem to prefer being alone when it comes to mating, as discovered when socks thrown into the habitats of captive red panda couples were later found hanging on the ends of branches beside seclusive thickets.

The best part of this story is that WindyCitizens was very successful in the effort, earning enough money for two nest boxes within a day. So say what you will–make your jokes about Chicagoans throwing money for love hotels so red pandas can play “hide the bamboo.” But the chipping in of some people can very well lead to more of these:

And that’s awesome.

Also yes, you can probably expect “Pandas of Passion” to pop up in my “Romance Stories” series someday.