Opinion pieces and recommendations on Sketchy Details

Watch: Tammie Brown’s “Coal In Your Stockings”

I’m not big on Christmas music. I change the radio when it comes on. I tolerate it with family and friends at holiday parties. I grin and bear it if I’m paid to perform it. The kitschy stuff can get me for a little bit but it starts to get (dare I say?) worshiped like the more sincere efforts and immune from laughter somehow.

Cue Tammie Brown, the best entertainer to ever come out of RuPaul’s Drag Race (your mileage may vary, as Tammie’s character is intentionally kooky and she never steps out of character when she has an audience, even when she’s walking around as Keith Glen Schubert), recording a sort-of music video for her new holiday song “Coal In Your Stockings.” Tammie’s music is a trip. It’s designed to be performed live and get a reaction out of a nightclub audience. It’s campy beyond belief.

It’s also really well-written and very clever when you start to break it down. Tammie’s not a great singer, but she is a great musician and entertainer and really sells it. It’s very much like Bette Davis jokingly performing songs on talk shows in the 70s. I’m a bit obsessed. A new holiday classic worthy of a playlist with The Nightmare Before Christmas and Mr. Hankey’s Christmas Classics.

Watch: What Is a Game?

I’m going to make a preemptive strike on my game awards this year. I like to experience something different in gaming. It’s how Super Hexagon, Dear Esther, Journey, and even browser games like Dys4ia and Orange Roulette made my Best of 2012 list. It comes down to how well the game is made and how strong the concept is.

I’m not going to lie. My 2013 list is going to be even stranger. I’ve become a Steam bundle addict in the past year so I play a lot of tiny little games that exist just to challenge the form and function of video games. For every Tomb Raider I rave about, there’s an Accelerator that does one thing so well and so different from other similar games that I go gaga over it. Which is better? Which will actually make my list? I don’t know.

What I do know is the new episode of Extra Credits tackles “What Is a Game?” with a resounding “Who cares?” They boil it down to interactivity with choice. I like that. It covers everything from 9.03 and Gone Home to BioShock Infinite and The Last of Us. There is no way that every game made will appeal to every gamer, but not liking a game does not make it any less of a game.

So keep that in mind when things like Long Live the Queen, Paranormal, and Papers, Please might wind up going toe to toe with Ni No Kuni, Metro: Last Light, and Arkham Origins. I still have a lot of games to play through but some really wild experiments are catching my interests more than some of the big console and PC titles this year.

Cheek to Cheek

Today, my students I’ve been working with since the end of September start their one weekend run of The Philadelphia Story. The singers and a student piano player are performing my original arrangements of 1930s/40s standards as varied as Kurt Weill/Ogden Nash’s “Speak Low,” George/Ira Gershwin’s “Nice Work (If You Can Get It),” and Louis Atler/Sidney D. Mitchell’s “You Turned the Tables on Me.” It’s a strong group of young female singers, so I coached them to pull inspiration from Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughn, and Ella Fitzgerald. The director wanted Frank Sinatra and I spun that to the abilities of the young performers.

Sadly, their prerecord of “Cheek to Cheek” for the curtain call didn’t work out, so we’re stuck with using one of the big inspirations for the program instead.


Explore: Film School Thesis Statement Generator

I think I’m being put out of a job. The Film School Thesis Statement Generator is a cheeky look at academic film criticism. It pulls very broad critical concepts pulled from title keywords and randomly pairs them with basic film elements. Add in academic doublespeak and you wind up with profound looking statements that boil down to really simple things.

For example,

Through the fluid identification of the viewer, Otto; Or, Up with Dead People conforms to pre-Oedipal guilt.

actually means

Since someone watching the film can connect to some changing aspect of the story, Otto; Or, Up with Dead People falls in line with an ambiguous sense of guilt created by general society.

Test it out for yourself. It’s fun.

Watch: Tropes vs. Women in Video Games: Ms. Male Character

With the first set of Anita Sarkeesian/Feminist Frequency’s Tropes vs. Women in Video Games series, I decided to dig into the subject matter in an effort to create a continuing dialogue with the series. Thanks to the trolls, Sarkeesian no long allows discussion on her YouTube videos and doesn’t engage in discussions on social media. She interacts more on the backer’s only updates at Kickstarter. I don’t blame her for guarding the work at this point. I applaud her for refusing to back down from her vision of online media criticism as educational tool.

With Ms. Male Character, I have absolutely nothing to add to the discussion. Sarkeesian’s presentation is air tight and fascinating. It’s totally worth a watch. I think it might be her best video yet including the Feminist Frequency series.

High Tech Halloween on a Low Tech Budget (The Haunting Ground #6)

Last night was the debut of my new panel High Tech Halloween on a Low Tech Budget. It went really well. People slowly filed in and turned it into a fantastic discussion about various haunting techniques and philosophies. I filmed a few minutes before the panel, so that starting conversation was longer but the quality wasn’t great.

This is what I love about the haunting community. We love learning new things. We love helping each other. And we’re not judgmental. I had to make that clear. I might haunt on a budget, but that doesn’t mean I have a problem with people who have the resources to funnel $1000′s into their haunt each year. There’s no wrong way to haunt.

The big disappointment is that the panel actually continued about 15 minutes past the video ending time. My DSLR apparently only records video for 30 minutes at a time, so it cut off 30 minutes into the recording. We discussed weather, tombstones, and using online resources to trade/gift theme-specific props.

Sketchy Details @Home #13: Speakeasy Swan Lake

We’ve reached the Face Off season finale where, once again, the contestants had to do a lot of makeup for a live stage performance. I love that as a finale challenge. I just wish that, you know, the contestants painted for the back row considering it was a ballet challenge. You couldn’t really see the details during the dance. That’s not good. Live theater doesn’t come with one on one closeup examinations to fully understand the concept.

For the finale, I took the unused theme–the Roaring 20′s (Hello, flapper girl to swan transformation. Why you not obvious to the finalists?)–and tried out a new style of diorama. I originally wanted to paint a backdrop and draw the characters and accessories on card stock, but I had no way to house the finished project. The answer was literally in front of me the whole time. No, really. Those gift boxes have been right smack in the middle of my workshop for years.

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Listen: John Legend featuring Lindsey Stirling “All of Me”

What happens when ridiculously talented musicians from totally different genres collaborate? Magic.

Well, it can be magic. It can also be a disaster. But that disaster is all the more interesting for showing how willing the musicians involved are to collaborate.

Nine-time Grammy Award winner John Legend and Sketchy Details’ favorite Lindsey Stirling got together to record a new version of his song “All of Me” from his new album Love in the Future. It’s beautiful.

The Preston Files #3: Dear Marvel Comics

Remember the three day update schedule? I need to get in the swing of two. And by need to get in the swing of two, I realized I have Geek Creation Show this weekend followed by immediately going into tech/dress rehearsals for a show I arranged live music for. It’s going to be a busy few weeks.

Meanwhile, Marvel announced last week that the new Ms. Marvel is a Muslim teenager from NJ with powers similar to Plastic Man–stretching her body to any shape she wants. I knew something big was coming at the NYCC Women of Marvel panel when they called for everyone who could to cosplay as Ms./Captain Marvel and show up. She-Hulk and Black Widow stole a lot of the attention at the panel, but Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel (formerly Ms. Marvel) got the biggest stretch of time.

Marvel’s talked about the new Ms. Marvel’s powers. They’ve talked about the importance of her faith and family. But they haven’t addressed how being from Jersey City–a hop, skip, and a jump from me–impacts the character. Preston has a few suggestions, Peanuts style.

The Preston Files #3: Dear Marvel Comics

Slipstream #13: Valerie’s Labyrinth

You ever see two films and think there’s no way the similarities are coincidental? We’re not talking the shot for shot remake of Psycho from Gus Van Sant here. We’re talking about films that were made in response to other films.

This week on Slipstream: The Pulp Culture Vlog, I propose that a modern Academy Award-winning fantasy classic pulls more than just a little inspiration from a radical Czech New Wave Surrealist fantasy from the 1970s. The latter already inspired one of my favorite dark fantasy/horror films of all time; whose to say that a film buff like the director of the former wouldn’t have embraced the structure and story of the same film for his own purposes.

Watch the video, then click on through to like, comment, share, and subscribe to Sketchy Details @YouTube.

Penny Arcade’s Strip Search: Where Are They Now?

stripsearchlogo Penny Arcades Strip Search: Where Are They Now?Penny Arcade’s Strip Search wound up being one of the most positive, inspiring, and life-changing reality shows ever created. The slower pace at the start meant learning a whole lot about the contestants, which made every elimination–even the clear winner/loser scenarios–very tense to watch. You didn’t want anyone to go home.

I think it’s pretty safe to say that all 12 finalists have benefited from the exposure of the show. All of them get invited to do guest strips for the Penny Arcade/PVP collaboration The Trenches. Almost all of the contestants have a webcomic project up at this point; all are regularly sharing their art. The post is actually going to focus on the finalists in more detail, but here’s what everyone else on the show has been up to.

Alex Hobbs is running his solo comic Wanderlust Kid and it’s really funny. Ty Haley (still running The Secret Life of a Journal Comic) and Monica Ray (still running Phuzzy Comics) are taking over The Trenches as the new writer and artist, respectively (that was announced at PAX Prime (skip to 6:31:00 for the announcement)). Mackenzie Schubert has a gorgeous new series called Full Stop running. Nick Trujillo is drawing up a storm at his Tumblr and has done guest work on PATV’s Extra Credits.

Sketchy Details @Home #12: Dark Elf Magic

A little shadow box art to brighten up–or perhaps darken up–your Tuesday. Sketchy Details @Home is back with a new art project inspired by SyFy’s Face Off. Since last week was preempted by Halloween madness (so worth it, did you see the Haunt video?), I had the choice of the Dark Elf/Nordic Rune challenge or the Bird/Human Hybrid challenge. I went with the Dark Elf challenge. I preferred all of those designs to the designs in the bird challenge and already had a solid idea of what I would do.

I tested out a different camera rig that would have been perfect with the light I decided not to set up and a new mic that I still need to order. Much better visual quality than the cellphone videos the first 11 weeks.

Watch and enjoy, then subscribe to Sketchy Details @YouTube for more great video series like this one.

Sharon Needles’ Top 13 Horror Movies for Chiller TV

sharonneedlestophorror Sharon Needles Top 13 Horror Movies for Chiller TVI love researching things. It’s not a joke. There is no punchline. I take great joy in finding something I don’t know and learning everything I can about it.

This really applies to the horror genre. I love checking out other people’s lists of the best horror, in general or by some sub-genre or time frame. Sometimes, it’s entirely predictable. Other times, I learn about something brand new and that excites me. I mean, I sat through a 90 minute or two hour panel (can’t remember which) at ConnectiCon all about foreign horror films and had to talk to the panelists because they introduced me to two films I never heard of before; we traded notes on their existing country focuses and I even gave them some hot tips for making South Korea its own stand alone category in future presentations.

Season 4 winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race and all around fantastic entertainer Sharon Needles put together her Top 13 horror films for the Chiller channel in time for Halloween and it’s a riot. Sharon’s character is beautiful, spooky, and stupid, so her in character reasoning for liking some of these films is pretty shocking (from its intentional stupidity). For example, she lists the US remake of Funny Games (a solid film in its own rights, though I prefer the acting in the original) because “[she doesn't] like other countries.” It’s a joke, people. Sharon knows her horror and it’s worth digging through her list because of its fantastic focus on some of the most under-appreciated modern horror films.