After teaching theater all day, I’m driving straight to Hartford, CT for Connecticon 2013. I’ll be able to walk the show a little bit after checking into a hotel, but unfortunately I will not be able to post directly to this website until Sunday night. I had to IP lock it because I’m one of the targets of that WordPress attack that started two months ago.
Basically, someone’s programmed bots to spam WordPress log-ins to either destroy the site by correctly guessing the log-in or crash it due to server overload. I shut it off a month ago and had to call to have my hosting restored after reapplying the ban through the back end.
I’m going to attempt to post by e-mail throughout the weekend, but I don’t know if it will work.
You can follow all the ConnectiCon 2013 coverage at my Twitter and my Facebook page.
Sometimes, you just need to take a stand against bad customer service. I know Sketchy Details is a media criticism site and Amazon Prime is a media provider, but this story needs to be heard.
This is the story of how, in less than a day, Amazon proved they have absolutely no control over their customer support when it comes to Amazon Prime.
Last night, I signed up for Amazon Prime. I used the one month trial last summer so I could get free shipping on huge rolls of trim, velcro, and fabric for costuming a production of The Music Man. I grew to like their streaming media service. They had a lot of free content I was interested in and the default quality was higher than Netflix. When I finally got paid a few days ago for theater work, I knew I wanted to sign up for Amazon Prime again.
Now that my hand has been de-splinted, I can actually type and write in my own style again.
First, I am sad to announce I did not move on in the Geek & Sundry vlog search competition. However, I am happy to announce that means Slipstream: The Pulp Culture Vlog can and will continue without the PG-13 only rating. My language will remain clean (as it does here), but I can freely cover more controversial content like exploitation films, how fantasy features influenced the field of psychology, and “x”ist critiques of science fiction. It’ll be a hoot. No holds barred. Anything goes! The new episode is filming tomorrow and hopefully going up Tuesday. The thumb injury stopped me from doing a one night turnaround this week.
Second, I have all my supplies together to launch my haunting and art series this month. I’m super excited about those. The home haunt vlog will be half tutorial, half document of my 2013 build. I don’t have a title for the haunt yet, but the theme is a haunted night club. The art series is tutorial mixed in with time-lapse art creation.
Courtesy of The Mary Sue, award-winning genre writer John Scalzi has announced he will not attend conventions that do not have a clear sexual harassment policy.
From my own experience, if stating “hey guys, let’s not grope anyone this weekend” is not a priority, the con doesn’t care about the fans paying to go. I learned that the hard way recently (cough AnimeNEXT cough). But cons that do have a clear sexual harassment policy tend to be reallygreat.
Follow Scalzi’s lead and support cons that care about the well-being and safety of ALL convention attendees.
Courtesy of Kotaku, here’s the launch trailer for Rogue Legacy. The post about it caught my eye by claiming it’s a game where having OCD is an advantage. That’s only slightly misleading.
The protagonists in this new indie computer game all have a medical condition that impacts how they play the game. The OCD knight earns bonus points for breaking all the pots. The colorblind knight plays in a grayscale environment. The near/farsighted knights have blurry vision for distance/closeups.
Rogue Legacy is a rogue-lite game, meaning the levels randomly (technically, procedurally) generate to a point. Think The Binding of Isaac. You’re not going to randomly get the final boss battle after the title screen, but you can’t predict which of the first world stages you’ll get before advancing to the second.
John Cameron Mitchell’s masterful rock musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch has had a long arc to a Broadway mounting. Since premiering in 1998 in a converted theater space off-Broadway, the show has been performed all over the world. Mitchell adapted, directed, and starred in the feature film adaptation in 2001 that received a Golden Globe nomination and critical acclaim. It helped launch Mitchell as a director capable of getting difficult projects to the screen–Shortbus and Academy Award-nominated Rabbit Hole included–and created demand for a Broadway mounting.
Soon, in 2014, we’re finally going to see Hedwig and the Angry Inch on Broadway. John Cameron Mitchell has been working on changes to the book for years to account for the different space and societal changes since the show debuted.
It’s not surprising that, 16 years later, Mitchell himself will not be playing the title role. That honor goes to Neil Patrick Harris. Harris has previously starred in the Broadway debut of Assassins in an excellent turn as the Balladeer, which is one of the trickier parts in the show. His Bobby in the NY Philharmonic production of Company was strong, as well. I love his work on the recording of the lesser-known Evening Primrose by Stephen Sondheim (TV musical special).
What Harris has is legitimate theater chops. He has a great stage presence. He moves well. And, most importantly, Hedwig is easily in his vocal range. I’m curious to see what Neil Patrick Harris brings to this role.
Elaborate costumes and raw rock recount a sad story of abandonment
Hedwig and the Angry Inch is, undoubtedly, a strange show. It’s a musical about a young man so desperate to escape the oppression of the USSR’s stranglehold over East Berlin that he has an irreversible medical procedure to pose as a woman and flee as a war bride. As soon as he lands in America, the Berlin Wall falls. His lover leaves him for another man and he starts a rock band. It only gets stranger from there.
Part of the reason Hedwig and the Angry Inch has taken so long to get to Broadway is the rewrite. The current version of Hedwig is an immersive show. It’s a rock concert at a restaurant across the street from a much larger rock arena. Hedwig interacts with the audience, including the infamous car wash gag. There’s a set script with audience and band banter, but Hedwig has to sell it like it’s a brand new experience every night.
The original off-Broadway production of Hedwig was raw in the best way possible.
John Cameron Mitchell needed to find a way to translate this raw energy into the more formal setting of Broadway. Conceivably, the show could take a page from Roundabout’s Studio 54 and have cabaret style seating rather than a traditional orchestra. They could borrow from Murder Ballad or Spring Awakening (to name two) and have audience members sitting onstage or surrounding the actors, as well.
But I think Mitchell is more creative than that. I imagine the changes to the show make it a period piece rather than a contemporary story as it’s traditionally done. If he shifts the setting, they won’t need onstage seating or even direct interaction. With the right monologues, the spirit of Hedwig will live on Broadway.
That makes the first show I have to see next season. We’re only a few weeks out from the Tony Awards and I’m already looking forward to Spring 2014 shows.
Thoughts on Hedwig and the Angry Inch? Share them.
With all the set photos being released this week, it appears the producers of The Last Five Years film adaptation really want a big return on their investment. I suspected that when Anna Kendrick (Pitch Perfect) and Jeremy Jordan (Smash) were cast as Cathy and Jamie.
Or should I say Tony Award nominee Anna Kendrick (High Society) and Tony Award nominee Jeremy Jordan (Newsies) starring as Cathy and Jamie? That theater pedigree helps in a show that has such a theatrical conceit.
A quick refresher on The Last Five Years: Cathy and Jamie recount their five year relationship from opposite perspectives. Cathy starts at the end and goes back to the beginning, while Jamie starts at the beginning and works his way to the end. They only meet up once onstage to sing together–not counter melodies, but actual interaction.
The film is foregoing that conceit and it makes me so nervous. Cathy and Jamie are going to sing to each other. They’re planning on using all the songs and keeping the time jumps, but with the couple interacting I fear a muddy mess.
The score is confessional in nature. When Jamie sings about meeting a “Shiksa Goddess,” he would never dream of telling Cathy she’s some kind of conquest on his rise to the top. Likewise, when Cathy sings about “A Summer in Ohio,” she would never have complained that much about doing summer stock if Jamie was there in person.
Are Cathy and Jamie meeting at the pier?
Sure, there are songs that hinge on interaction. “See I’m Smiling” is all about Cathy’s surprise that Jamie has arrived after their relationship became strained. She sings about all the things she wants him to do and how hard she’s trying to save the relationship. She even references how they’re sitting, how he laughs, how he smiles, and how they’re interacting. I can see the scene on film: a lovely walk on the waterfront after meeting at the docks, perhaps a montage of Cathy’s memories to foreshadow some of the upcoming scenes.
It’s so early to try to put a judgment on the film. The talent is there. The music is there. My excitement level is far higher than I anticipated.
Yet I have to mention a personal bias here. This is an adaptation of a show about mid/late 20-somethings falling in and out of love. Jeremy Jordan and Anna Kendrick hit that perfectly–28 and 27, respectively. With the way they’re being dressed in the show and the subject matter, they’ll read the right age onscreen.
But I prefer actors aging down for the role. The Last Five Years has a really complex score filled with a lot of intricate character shifts. It has a very strong voice about relationships and love. Typically, onstage, the actors are a few years older than the characters in the script. It’s not an uncommon casting choice–how many twenty-somethings play teenagers?–but in this show it adds a level of nuance and maturity that only comes with more life experience. Sherie Rene Scott and Norbert Leo Butz were only a few years older than the characters when the show premiered in 2001 and their performances are why the show is so fondly remembered.
That bias is why I’m so drawn to a recently released video of Lea Salonga in rehearsal for a concert. Salonga (Tony Award winner for Miss Saigon and the singing voice of Jasmine and Mulan in the Disney pantheon) brings this beautifully nuanced sense of understanding and acceptance that I doubt a younger performer could pull off. With the right Jamie, Lea Salonga could easily pull off a production of The Last Five Years. It’s a total piece of fantasy anyway; if the actors read young, you’ll accept the reality of the show.
Just watch this performance of “I’m Still Hurting,” the opening song in The Last Five Years. I’ve watched it at least 20 times since it was uploaded last Friday and it brings me to tears every time. Bonus points duly awarded for doing the rhythms as written in the actual score (ahem).
Can Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan match that level of intensity or wisdom that sells the (let’s be frank) self-centered story of The Last Five Years? You need the audience to immediately understand from the first pair of songs that the show is all about diagnosing what went wrong over a big chunk of a shared lifetime. This isn’t the free-wheeling spirit of 500 Days of Summer that has the opportunity to wallow in self-indulgence and too clever scene juxtapositions to be a crowd-pleaser. This is a very low-key narrative that rests on a simple conceit and a fantastic score.
I want The Last Five Years to be a rousing success because I want musicals to be bankable again. If they earn money, studios will invest the time and energy needed to make more that don’t hinge on ridiculous close-ups of A-list actors shooting snot out of their noses for extra sincerity*. And if musicals are profitable again, maybe A-list actors won’t be required for EVERY leading role in a movie musical anymore.
We’ll see how The Last Five Years turns out eventually. At the very least, more people will learn about this wonderful little show. That’s a victory.
*Salonga played Eponine and Fantine professionally on Broadway and in anniversary concerts. She didn’t need blacked out teeth and 15 seconds pauses between words to sell “I Dreamed a Dream.” She didn’t even need the costume. She just needed a stage. Just saying.
Penny Arcade’s Strip Search ended on Tuesday night and the contestant I backed the whole way through, Abby Howard, took second place. Per the judging, Penny Arcade creators Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins feared that Abby was better working under the pressure of the elimination round than she was creating a long-form strip on her own time.
I know editing doesn’t 100% reflect reality, but they both seemed to laugh as much at the comic strips she brought from home (final challenge: create a six page arc plus character sheets and logos) as they laughed at the comic strips she created on the spot (final elimination: three comics in four hours using the comic you developed at home and two words from the Wastebasket of Broken Dreams). She also created the only strips on the spot that they liked as much as the strips created at home. That, to me, shows she had the best-developed idea and the most preparation to create a strip in the PA offices for a year.
But I’m not bitter. Nope. How can I be when I’ve become a fan of all three finalists and liked their pitches for new comic series? Camp Wheedonwantcha is going to be a hoot. All three contestants went dark and funny so, really, I had to be happy with the winner.
And why be bitter? Abby Howard funded the Kickstarter for her online graphic novel The Last Halloween in well under a day. The Kickstarter went live with a goal of $9000 yesterday and stands at $55077 today with 23 days to go.
So she funded her project already. Why write about it at all?
Simple. Talent this strong deserves support. The Kickstarter covers the production and distribution of the first of three graphic novels in The Last Halloween series. The entire series is written. She just needs the time and money to draw them out. The more she earns to live on, the faster we get the full series.
On the finale, she said she can bang out the first book this summer. From there, she would release one complete scene a week rather than a page every few days. That in itself is something that should be supported in online comics. I love a good long-form comic series, but an update schedule of one page a week or every few days means hoping your fans have the patience to come back when the story inevitably has to slow down.
Not with The Last Halloween. Abby’s going to post a complete scene, about three pages, every week. She gets to break up the story and control the pace. This will go a long way to mitigate the usual critiques of slowing down the story to earn more money or stalling because the creator ran out of ideas.
So what’s The Last Halloween about? Mona, a young girl, discovers that monsters plan on destroying Earth on Halloween night. This little girl starts to see little ghosts who agree to help her fight the unimaginable evil plotting against humanity. The series is illustrated in Abby Howard’s beautifully expressive black and white style and has humor as dark as the ink on the page.
What? Did you think I was going to advocate for a happy comic with no horror this hard?
The Kickstarter video for this project needs to be seen to be believed.
I mentioned at the top of the month that I would be applying for the Geek & Sundry Vlogs channel on YouTube. Felicia Day’s second channel just for vlogs had a talent search going on to fill out 10 slots on their schedule. They wanted vloggers who were really passionate about a topic.
Naturally, I chose genre entertainment. Or, as I dubbed it for this series pitch, pulp culture. Slipstream is all about how horror, sci-fi, and fantasy interact across entertainment media. I’ve actually put up two episodes already, but only the first one is part of the application process.
Starting today at 1PM EST, you can visit my Geek & Sundry vlog page, watch the first episode of Slipstream, vote for it once a day, and (most important of all) leave feedback.
The votes are going to determine who is on the leaderboard for the 30 vloggers moving on to the next round. However, the leaderboard alone does not determine the finalists. The Geek & Sundry staff is going to pay a lot of attention to feedback left below the videos. The quality of feedback will make or break the submissions. UPDATE: Feedback needs to be left on the YouTube video itself, not the G&S webpage. Comment on the video here.
That’s where you come in. If you like the concept for the vlog, like me on camera, like my viewpoint/writing/voice, leave a comment on the page. This part of the talent search is basically a test of how people respond to the different vloggers.
So what does being part of the Geek & Sundry Vlogs channel do? A lot. For starters, it allows me to have a wider audience to share my pulp culture media criticism. That’s always been a huge part of my mission as a writer. I want to help raise the level of discourse for horror, sci-fi-, and fantasy so that they’re not just fringe subjects left to small press, specialty blogs, and conventions. I love that aspect of the culture, but there are great genre properties across all the fields of entertainment that are still defined by category, not substance. Not all sci-fi, horror, and fantasy will appeal to everyone, but a good portion of it isn’t even given a chance.
Second, the Geek & Sundry Vlogs channel is dedicated to developing new talent. Felicia Day is going to mentor the ten chosen vloggers. They’re going to get a stipend for running their series on the Vlogs channel. The current vloggers even received new mics to improve the quality of their set-up. Feedback, opportunities, and a little extra cash can go a long way in improving Sketchy Details.
Third, I want to bring on extra writers but I don’t want to be one of those “it’s for the exposure, no pay” editors. I want to bring on writers when I can afford to pay pro rates for their media criticism. Every extra gig brings me one step closer to this goal. Just the traffic generated from being able to link Sketchy Details to the Geek & Sundry Vlogs channel will be a huge boost.
So that’s why I need your help. Visit my vlogger page at Geek & Sundry, watch the video, vote once a day, and leave feedback. Share the link with your friends and ask them to do the same. There is a lot of competition in the talent search and even a few other people treading the same topic territory. I’m confident that we can make this happen. I’m continuing Slipstream and other video projects either way.
Have you had a chance to check out my GameFanShop partner store yet? Now’s the perfect time to explore. It’s a PC gaming paradise. You get great discounts on PC downloads and get to support Sketchy Details in the process.
You shop through my partner store link. When you check out, you register an account that links to my partner store. The transaction is processed and you receive the links to download your games on Steam, Origin, uPlay, or whatever server the developer wants to use. I get a small commission that helps keep Sketchy Details up and running and does not impact your price point.
Here are this week’s deals. They all expire on Sunday, 23 June.
Tomb Raider is on sale for $25.99 (48% off). I really enjoyed this adventure game, especially the more realistic take on the long-running series and the strong protagonist. The game is downloaded with Steam.
Remember Me just came out and you can already snag it for $38.99 (22% Off). This stylish sci-fi action/adventure game features a cerebral conceit of mental espionage and warfare. The game is downloaded with Steam.
Defiance is on sale for $34.99 (42% Off). My online friends are still raving about this MMOShooter that I’ve accidentally mislabeled as an FPS here a few times; 3rd person means I might yet one day play it and do well. This game is downloaded at the official website.
Borderlands 2 is on sale for $29.99 (25% Off). This FPS/RPG hybrid got rave reviews when it was released in September, scoring an 89/100 at Metacritic. This game is downloaded with Steam.
Guild Wars 2 is on sale for $46.99 (6% Off). What can I say? When your free-to-play MMORPG is this well-made and still this popular, you don’t have to offer a huge discount to lure in new players. This game is downloaded at the official website.
You can also pre-order Company of Heroes 2 with access to the Beta at my GameFanShop partner store. The game, the open beta, and a bunch of pre-order bonuses to help you when the game comes out are on sale for $52.99 (12% off). The Collector’s Edition adds on 24 vehicle skins, a collector faceplate, five extra commander archetypes, and the original Complete Pack for Company of Heroes for $89.99 (10% off).
You can also pick up Xbox 360 Gold Membership cards for $5 to $10 off the retail price this week. The Xbone may be a disaster right now, but the Xbox 360 is still a solid console. In fact, Microsoft is still promoting it as an alternative to the Internet-challenged. Ahem.
So those are this week’s deals. Mostly. I don’t support IPR trolling so a certain 40K franchise wasn’t included in the round up.
These aren’t the only games available at my GameFanShop partner store. There are over 1000 games to download right now to suit the preferences of every PC gamer. Browse at your leisure, get great deals on games, and support this site in the process. Everyone wins.
The Purge wound up being an okay film. It’ll make for good Netflix viewing down the line for horror fans. It did great at the box office, turning a profit in one weekend (estimated 10x the production cost in three days) and polarizing packed audiences who cheered or jeered the final act. It was a theatrical experience I won’t soon forget.
And now we have the matter of our little contest. Which entrant will come out on top of a random drawing?
I put all three contestants in a random list generator on Random.org in the order they entered the contest. I hit the Randomize button once and these were the results:
There were 3 items in your list. Here they are in random order:
1. 1. @who killed l
2. 3. Alex D.
3. 2. pinkerton
Timestamp: 2013-06-17 16:00:18 UTC
The first column of numbers is the results. The second column is the entry number in the contest.
Congratulations to Twitter user @whokilledlucy on winning The Purge Giveaway. Here’s her answer to how to #SurviveTheNight:
@whokilledlucy, I need you to get me your shipping information so I can pass it off to my partners at Universal for prize delivery. Shoot me an e-mail ([email protected]) or DM me (@robertjgannon) to claim your prize.
Thanks to everyone who entered the contest. I hope to run more in the future.
Marvel is adding a line of graphic novels to their expansive publishing list. Rather than compendiums of monthly releases, these new books will be stand alone stories written for the graphic novel format. Publisher’s Weekly has all the exciting details.