Are Today’s Cartoons Loony and Cynical or Are We Just Square?

Category : Entertain Me, Featured, Geek Out, Geek Rants, Television

Could you imagine being a kid and meeting SpongeBob, if he were real? My mother and father would most likely warn you to stay away from that “strange kid.”

What does that say about today’s cartoon television shows? What has changed over the past 30-some years? Could it just be that we, as adults, are just out of touch with today’s cartoons, or has our society — and cartoons — grown a little more cynical and off the beaten path?

loonycartoons

According to KidsHealth, young children, ages 6 and younger, spend an average of two hours in front of a television screen, watching either daily cartoons or movies. That time doubles among kids ages 8 to 18. Consider the number of children using mobile devices every day has more than doubled in the past two years, and it would be easy to ascertain the influence of cartoons is much greater than it was when we were young. Personally, I did not have any mobile devices as a kid, much because none existed.

Now, comparing the likes of Spongebob Squarepants, Chowder and The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack to 1980s and ’90s cartoons like Garfield and Friends, Thundercats and Care Bears may not be as bad of an experience as grandma would have with a Daft Punk concert; however, the takeaway from each experience could arguably be the same — not much.

 

Cartoons of Yesteryear Had More of a Moral Compass

Cartoons have traditionally aimed to not only entertain children, but to try and teach them something, be it a moral lesson or to encourage them to be more creative and active.

The Care Bears cartoon (1985-1988), for example, focused on being good to others and being honest. It helped children learn how to resolve differences and express their feelings. There were no off-the-wall antics, no farting noises or loud, destructive scenes. These elements are common in cartoons like Spongebob Squarepants and Chowder, which actually has an episode called “Famous Farts.” It would stand to argue that parents would like their children to learn more than the art of flatulence when watching cartoons. It is safe to say the 1980s and ’90s cartoons were, for the most part, fart-free.

Action cartoons 30 years ago, like G.I. Joe, Transformers, He-Man and Thundercats, also had a definitive line between good and evil and applied several lessons of what is right and wrong, along with the importance of teamwork to overcome adversity. These cartoons contained the essence of what we have come to know as heroes.

There’s no comparing the visual effects of cartoons 30 years ago to today’s cartoons. The advancement in animation and graphics have revolutionized how the common household television functions today. Perhaps that’s where our old cartoons stayed true; they weren’t saturated with noisy, action-saturated graphics. It’s like comparing an orchestra to a garage band.

For example, Ben10 (aired 2005-2008) centered around a typical boy who came upon an alien device which transformed him into various unearthly creatures with otherworldly powers, as the cartoon’s selling point. It’s comparable to Pokemon–the Rubix Cube of cartoons for adults today–in that numerous characters and high action compete for a child’s attention.

With 1980s and ’90s cartoons, the stories themselves captivated the minds of children, not the graphics and action. They were like an orchestra with simple, constructive tunes rather than the “garage band” type of cartoons you see today, where the louder and more obnoxious they are, seemingly, the more popular they get.

 

Beacons of Hope

Technology used in family life, on the other hand, is only moving forward. It is not uncommon for a family household to be equipped with a bundled service of technology, similar to what www.bundle.tv provides: feeding cable and high-speed Internet to the household. This, of course, provides access to an infinite plethora of games, shows and movies to every television, computer and mobile device under one roof. Thanks to technology like this, monitoring what children watch is something our parents can do with ease, compared to the past. There are ways of steering our children, especially our younger ones, toward more quality educational entertainment.

Not all cartoon shows today are bad. There are beacons of hope out there in the cartoon world. Two examples of cartoons with a moral compass are Nickelodeon’s Dora the Explorer and Disney’s Phineas and Ferb. Shows like Dora help younger children learn the basic knowledge of society, but go a step further, teaching viewers a new language (Spanish) while also entertaining them.

Paste Magazine considers Phineas and Ferb to be the best kids show on television, citing its relative plots to everyday life, its intrigue to viewers young and old, and its cleverness in humor. The show doesn’t oversell its characters; it keeps them honest and playful, yet mindful of each other and their parents. Its graphics are simple, yet colorful and never overbearing. It is because of shows like Dora the Explorer and Phineas and Ferb, there is a Care Bear still smiling somewhere.

 

About the Author

Ryan Harrison works for a pop culture magazine where he writes gossip about celebrities… shamelessly.

A Dog, A Rabbit and A Stinkbug Walk Into A Strip: Mel Henze’s Gentle Creatures

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Category : Comics, Entertain Me, Featured

It’s ritual. Almost involuntary, like whatever it is my spleen does when I’m not looking. Wake up, turn on news, make espresso, read funnies. I’m still Old School enough to prefer my funnies in the dry, gritty, analog, format of newspaper. Of course, I am no Luddite either and, as is the most convenient today, and cleaner for manicured hands, I take my funnies online via GoComics.com.

The ease and access is beautiful: funnies on my phone, funnies on my tablet, funnies on my laptop. It’s never been easier to chase friends and family around the room urging, “OMG! You have to read this one!”, almost always answered with a patient smile, a single eyebrow-lift and an obligatory, “That’s funny.” Is it? Then laugh.

Gentle Creatures artwork: Mel Henze, copyright GoComics

Gentle Creatures artwork: Mel Henze, copyright GoComics

The traditional comic strip, a linear set of panels delivering a quick, wry joke, une blague, as the French call it and which I find a much funnier word than “joke”, seems to be holding its own nicely in our contempo, digital world. Stretching as far back as the Bayeux Tapestry, I would argue, the linear storytelling model feeds man’s need for a brief, pithy respite of humour (not that the Norman Invasion was all that funny), whether on his way to a clan war in the Scottish highlands, a revolution in Yorktown or a pitch meeting on the Loews Santa Monica patio bar.

First published in a Sunday supplement to William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal in 1897, The Katzenjammer Kids, created by Rudolph Dirks and drawn today by Hy Eisman, remains America’s longest-running comic strip, still appearing in over fifty newspapers and magazines across the globe, distributed by King Features.

Like any commercial art, cartooning is a tough and tight-knit crew. Becoming an internationally syndicated cartoonist is harder than figuring out WTF happened on the final season of LOST. However, if you have tenacity, an innate sense of humour, drawing skills and a cocktail napkin, you might have a shot at the Big Time. Mel Henze had all that and now look at him. Of course, “all that” minus the drawing skills. Even he admits, “As far as the drawing goes, it’s a struggle at times. I need lessons and/or books.”

Gentle Creatures "actual submission". "Artwork": Mel Henze, image copyright, GoComics.

Gentle Creatures “actual submission”. “Artwork”: Mel Henze, image copyright, GoComics.

Mel Henze, a jovial, approachable chap who could sumo wrestle Ron Howard for the title of Mr. Nice Guy, lives the beauteous life on a quiet, wooded beach somewhere in British Columbia. He seems impervious to criticism, indeed values it, and, like any good artist, flays himself mercilessly before others can do the job. He is open to comments and questions and happy to chat with his readers; it is merited to this failing that he fell into my trap and was kind enough to allow me a brief interview about his newest strip, Gentle Creatures. Rumoured to be actually written by a chain-smoking, ex-circus clown, my due diligence has not turned up any hard evidence to this fact and it appears Henze is indeed the real creator and artist. Here’s the story he’s selling. (Caveat emptor.)

  • Gentle Creatures is the story of a fat-headed bunny named Radish Cheeseweed, his good natured but dim witted dog Jingles and their pal Cecil, an opinionated stink bug. While it may be true that the bunny-dog-stink bug combination is an age-old classic, Gentle Creatures breathes new life into the union in a way that has been seen only a few dozen times before.

A truism since we crawled out of the primordial stew and up onto Canadian beaches, the bunny-dog-stinkbug combo is timeless. In the case of GC, Radish Cheeseweed, his dog Jingles and the snarky Cecil work well together, Radish’s general beef with the universe being the swizzle stick that stirs the Singapore Sling.

Animals-as-people is also an age-old classic. Be it Snoopy, Garfield, The Far Side dinosaurs in cat-lady glasses or Get Fuzzy‘s Bucky and Satchel, anthropomorphized animals make the best friends, and comic characters. I asked Mel why we love them so.

  • I remember being drawn to Richard Scarry books as a kid. I’d spend what seemed like hours looking at how all the different animals were drawn and all the funny things they were doing. For me, it’s just something I’ve always identified with. It also makes sense from a cartooning perspective. Cranky bunny, lovable innocent dog… one is easily distinguishable from the other, even at a glance.  And they’re often easier to draw… another bonus.

If you follow the philosophical teachings of animators, Seth MacFarlane and Walt Disney have both said that the eyes, especially where animal characters are concerned, are vital to a character’s connection with the audience. Jingles’ eyes are beckoning and innocent; one wants to protect him, mostly from Radish. Academically, Mel knows this, yet is horrified to realize he has failed here, miserably.

  • Cecil has no eyes. Well, no pupils really. Wait, now that you mention it, none of the regular characters have pupils. I think [MacFarlane and Disney] might be on to something…

Not to worry, fair reader. Cecil the stinkbug might have no eyes and Jingles no pupils, but there exist other features cartoon creatures can possess, which draw them happily into our hearts and souls.

  • In terms of other features, Radish has angry eyebrows and a fat head, both of which contribute to his immediate and recognisable dislikability.

Gentle Creatures is not Henze’s first cat rodeo, although the initial, now infamous, cocktail napkin submission to GoComics, and subsequent, rough draft-feedback, suggests otherwise.

Gentle Creatures, rough draft with "editor suggestions". Artwork: Mel Henze, copyright GoComics

Gentle Creatures rough draft w/ feedback. Artwork: Mel Henze, copyright GoComics

Hubert and Abby is, in fact, Henze’s first comic strip. Before that, he was drawing single-panel cartoons and was very fortunate, via one his very first panels, to be picked up, and syndicated in the U.S. and internationally, by legendary distributor King Features (Betty & Veronica, Mother Goose & Grimm, Mutts), a unit of Hearst Corporation. Once in the club, Henze was encouraged by editors to “create a comic strip as an alternative to the somewhat flooded panel market.” Henze listened and, “a few iterations later, Hubert and Abby was born”. The lure of the panel still calls like a fat mermaid-siren in the night though, and to quell this lust, Henze occasionally designs greeting cards for Oatmeal Studios.

Henry David Thoreau suggested one write what one knows. One wonders then, like many an artist, is Henze embodied in any of his creations? Is the cranky Radish Cheeseweed an alter ego of sorts? Does Henze/Cheeseweed find daily irritation with what the inimitable writer Hunter S. Thompson called “the inchworms” of the world; or do Canadians love everybody? Might Henze be Jingles, the contented and kindly pup; or is Henze the personification of Cecil, the obdurate stinkbug? It seems Thoreau’s influence made its way into a previous, Hubert and Abby strip. (Makes sense. Most artists living in tents on secluded beaches or in lean-tos in the woods tend to appreciate Thoreau to a fault.)

  • Turtle quoted Thoreau in Hubert and Abby as having said “I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion”. Hubert tested the theory with the nearest reasonable facsimile…a can of pumpkin pie filling. Like Turtle, I’m more of a pumpkin-guy myself, though I’d have to say there’s a bit of me in each of my characters. Minus the crankiness of course. 

So, back to the cocktail napkin: readers want to know … is that real? Did a famous, multi-strip, syndicated cartoonist from Canada really submit an idea in this manner? Do we blame Canada? The story goes that the muck-stained napkin was submitted to GoComics editors and the following, visceral response ensued.

There was something about it that I liked,” claimed Editor Joe. “I’m not sure if it was the kind and peaceful nature of the characters themselves, or the gentle way the interacted. I know it wasn’t the art … I mean, really.”

Was it the cranky rabbit, or did Hubert and Abby help get Henze’s lucky rabbit foot in the door? Moreover, what is the ring on said-napkin? Is it espresso, drip coffee (if so, what brew?), bean soup or maybe even a chocolate martini? Well, kids, in this GoodToBeAGeek exclusive, Mel tells all.

  • The napkin sketch wasn’t part of the original submission, unfortunately, but the idea of a submission drawn in five seconds on a (used) napkin struck me as funny. It’s also a jab at my own inability to put a decent proposal together, though it may have come across differently. I created it specifically for the GoComics launch and the stain is “simulated” coffee, thanks to photo-editing software.  I also experimented with bacon grease and tape, both of which didn’t make the final cut.

Interesting. Now that we all feel like fools, having Huzzah!ed the little guy and Fie!ed the “mean and unfair syndicate monsters” the world over who wish only to use artists’ hard-fought work for nothing more than fish-wrap, we can step back and read Gentle Creatures for what it really is: a truly funny, giggle-invoking, daily dash of happy.

How does a mere Canadian, any artist for that matter, make it amongst the ranks of Charles Schulz and Bill Watterson? Can-do, I say! I asked Henze and, naturally, he had an answer.

  • Gentle Creatures, like Hubert and Abby, started on the GoComics Sherpa site, which for me, is a great place to develop a strip.  It gave me the opportunity to work to a deadline while getting valuable feedback from other cartoonists and readers.  The GoComics editors also keep an eye on strips on the Sherpa side … sometimes you’ll hear from the pros on the GoComics side.  The very talented Ed Power, My Cage and Santa vs. Dracula [both GoComics-strips illustrated by Melissa DeJesus], was an early supporter and provided a much appreciated boost early on and continues to get the word out about Gentle Creatures.

As the convention season in SoCal starts its early rumblings, this SoCal geek girl wondered if Henze and his creatures would feature at either WonderCon or the god of all cons, San Diego Comic-Con? SDCC badges and press passes are harder to garner than a birthday party invitation from Hillary Clinton to Ted Nugent. Yet, if GoComics sponsored a Henze appearance, stinkbugs and cranky rabbits from all over the Southland would file in to get a glimpse. Henze himself is open to it all.

  • With any luck, these will be something I can attend in the future. By all accounts, they’re pretty amazing events, and a great place to meet and connect with people, and possibly introduce them to a cranky bunny, a lovable dog, and an opinionated stink bug.    

Besides stinkbugs and small mammals, Comic-Con is also crawling with cartoonists and animators of all strains and species. Henze has a bit of golden advice for the funny-page wannabes, as well as an open email box for anyone whom wishes to pick his brain.

  • If you have an idea, submit it on a napkin.  It’s funny. I really enjoy hearing from people who want to talk about their strip or mine, or cartooning in general, and welcome comments (good or bad!) to the email on my GoComics page. Happy Cartooning!

As Radish Cheeseweed’s recent hospital stay proved, no one is indispensable. Kermit the Frog and Tom Cruise, I have on good authority, are on permanent standby, just in case Cheeseweed meets an untimely end; and keeping it all in The Muppets family, Pepe the King Prawn could serve well as a Cecil stand-in. Jingles, for this reader’s worth, is absolutely indispensable. Jingles has quickly moved up my ranks to join prestigious company with Fox Trot‘s Jason and Quincy, Get Fuzzy‘s Satchel and Peanuts‘ Sally Brown. Jingles makes a sweet first-impression. Moreover, it is rumoured Jingles fancies a parasol on sunny days, much like Yours Truly. Who doesn’t love a wee dog with a pink parasol? Will Henze play God with his characters? Probably.

Gentle Creatures artwork: Mel Henze, copyright GoComics

Gentle Creatures artwork: Mel Henze, copyright GoComics

  • I hope Jingles is indispensable. As much as cartoonists describe their characters as their children, I’ve found after a few years, they’re like adult children living in your basement. You hope that someday they can stand on their own and eke out a living. Henze added, I love Pepe the King Prawn! Maybe a future cameo?!
An honourable homage! Artwork: Mel Henze, image courtesy of J.S.Devore

An honourable homage! Artwork: Mel Henze, image courtesy of J.S.Devore

Henze’s strip makes me scroll to the bottom of my personalized GoComicsPro page each morning. I am excited to learn what hay is being made in the dew-dappled meadow amidst the burbling, gurgling creek which runs through the smallish hills. (Note, GC is not at the bottom of my page as a ranking judgment; but simply because it is one of the newest I’ve added.) Calvin and Hobbes and Peanuts top my list, of course. Gentle Creatures sits nicely snuggled in between Sarah’s Scribbles and Wizard of Id.

Gentle Creatures is exactly what a comic strip should be. Comic strips should make you guffaw, laugh out loud embarrassingly in public, leaving those around you at Starbucks to wonder if you’re actually reading something funny, or if they should have 9-1-1 at the ready. The funnies should make you excited to open the new strip every day. They should make you get up from your seat and force everyone else in the house to read it, too, whilst you stand there, dorky smile plastered on your face, waiting in giddy anticipation and watching their face for signs of the coming laugh, the same creeping smile and chortle the strip elicited from you. Often, this is not the case and we must retreat to our davenports (That’s what they call it in Canada, right?), tails between our legs and resume reading our beloved and misunderstood, under-appreciated comics with quieter chuckles and titters. (That’s a funny word, too. Right, Jingles?) Gentle Creatures accomplishes this, indeed.

Gentle Creatures artwork: Mel Henze, copyright GoComics

Gentle Creatures artwork: Mel Henze, copyright GoComics

Find Gentle Creatures at GoComics.com, a division of Universal Uclick, an Andrews-McMeel Universal company. Email Mel Henze at gentlecreaturescomic@gmail.com! To boot, a very special thank you to @Gene Willis @GoComics for the introduction and, especially, to Mel Henze for his time, his humour, his art and, most of all, my panel!

See you in the Sunday funnies, kids!

Follow @JennyPopNet #GentleCreatures #comics

Hannah’s other fave places to haunt online?

JennyPop.net  jenniferdevore.blogspot.com and amazon.com/author/jenniferdevore

Jen in Pen … and Ink! Thank You, Mel Henze!

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Category : Candid Conversations, Comics, Entertain Me, Featured, Geek Out

Honours come in many a form and fancy. Some strive for awards and trophies, some shoot for honorary mentions and notice. Mine, like many a dyed-in-the-wool geek is to be a cartoon character … and not via those cheesy, “Turn yourself into a superhero!” ads, the product being little more than a selfie morphed by mildly impressive Photoshopping.

No, a truly organic, artistic character is what I crave and not necessarily a Marvel-style superheroine (Although, I do envision a metal bustier, Manson boots and coal-black locks, tipped with poisonous scorpions, à la Blackbeard’s fuse-tipped curls, with which to sting villains, those being folks using “your” and “you’re” interchangeably, as well as those asking really dumb questions like, “I can never remember. Which was first? The Civil War or the Revolution?” Scorpions, dispatch with the obstuse! Away!”)

An honest to goodness Sunday funnies, cartoon character suits me raw-ther nicely. Well, my Fairy Godmother waved her wand and Bibbidi-bobbidi-boo! Unexpected and a true honour, this drawing was a thank-you from syndicated cartoonist Mel Henze, of GoComics new comic strip, Gentle Creatures. Weirdly, he nailed me with surprising accuracy! The parasol, the red shoes, the hat, sunglasses and flower! (Not the boobs, so much; but I love The Far Side approach to anatomy!)

An honourable homage! Artwork: Mel Henze, image courtesy of J.S.Devore

An honourable homage! Artwork: Mel Henze, image courtesy of J.S.Devore

I oft describe myself as Ken Burns, minus the funding. When something strikes my fancy, I write about it: Disneyland, Nordstrom, The Simpsons, Comic-Con, Colonial Williamsburg, Orange County, etc. Gentle Creatures struck my fancy and I wanted to write about it, where I scribe so often on geek culture, comics and animation: GoodToBeAGeek.com

Fortunate enough to interview Mr. Henze, I learned a great deal about his process, the maze and diligence that can lead to U.S. and international syndication and something called “panel-heaviness”. I met a wonderful little doggy named Jingles, a curious stinkbug named Cecil, learned not all rabbits are cute and cuddly and The Muppets’ King Prawn Pepe is on possible standby … for what, I’m not sure. Check back very soon for my full interview with Mr. Henze and his Gentle Creatures!

Thank you, Mr. Henze! Thank you for the introduction, to boot, Mr. Gene Willis @GoComics!

How Technology Has Changed How We Watch Movies

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Category : Bytes, Entertain Me, Featured, Movies, Tech

In case you have spent a majority of your time under a massive rock, chances are, you have noticed changes to the movie watching experience. In the past decade alone, it’s been amazing to see how the entertainment and technology industries have worked together – combining efforts in an attempt to overcome piracy, which is still a potent and growing threat, and adapt to the way people decide to rent and/or own films in their home.

 

When you look at the latter issue, the physical rental world took a pretty massive hit this past fall when Blockbuster announced it was closing its remaining 300 stores in the U.S. (along with those overseas) by the end of this month (January). Why? Because of streaming video, of course. As you probably know, there is an increasingly competitive marketplace for videos on demand. In addition to the two leading providers, Netflix and Amazon, the service is being offered through Redbox, Vudu, Hulu Plus, and iTunes.  Cable networks such as NBC and ABC, among many others, have taken note and include streaming access of recent episodes hosted on their own websites.

Courtesy of Google

Courtesy of Google

What these services have essentially done is brought our movie-watching community closer to the fully virtual world. More so, when you consider new tech like the Google Chromecast. This device essentially makes any TV into an Internet TV. All you do is plug it in, configure the device to your WiFi and you are able to stream any video from your computer, tablet or smartphone directly to your TV. As far as upcoming tech goes, Technicolor is getting ready to bring its M-GO service to the ultra-HD Samsung television sets by the end of this spring. The goal here is to allow movie lovers with 4K-resolution televisions the chance to see films (and TV series) with the most impressive quality output available.

 

Gone are the days when you would take trips to a video rental store and go through the experience of making sure they have a copy, possibly having to go with a different title, and trying not to buy too much candy at the counter. Instead, we’re all posting up on our couches, beds, and maybe even dinner tables to watch the latest movie on our list.

 

The funny thing is, you would think all of this technology would have an impact on the bottom line at the box office, right? Sort of. According to numbers reported by Variety, 2013 was a record-setting year in terms of film revenue as it reached $11 billion in the US. That being stated, ticket prices were also up during the summer months, yet overall ticket sales have steadily declined since 2002. Will the trend continue in 2014? It seems likely. It will be interesting to see how Hollywood reacts.

 

The future is not solely up to the movie-makers to shape. How will we, as a community, go forward in our movie viewing this year? Will we continue to embrace streaming video, or return to theaters as in decades past? I’m interested in what you, the reader, have to say about this topic. Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section.

 

About the Author:
Rachel Hodges is a young writer with a love of all things cinema and technology related. If she can find any story combining the two subjects, you’ll be sure to find her writing about it.

Movie Proppin’

Category : Entertain Me, Featured, Movies

There’s little more satisfying for a movie fan than actually owning an item that has featured in their favorite film! These days there’s a big industry surrounding the resale of genuine movie props to fans, with props valued for their rarity and prominence in the film. You can browse props for sale online from websites such as moviepropwarehouse.com and the famous Prop Store, which has locations in London and Los Angeles. What could be more exciting than owning a piece of your favorite movie?

Clap Clapboard Blank
By AgatheD (Own work)
[GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0]
via Wikimedia Commons

Sourcing

The life of a prop isn’t always straight forward, with most props featuring in far more than one film these days. As production buyers source sets, the first port of call will always be the studios’ own warehouse as free props immediately free up the budget of the production. There’s a great article that can be found on TotalFilm about 30 of the most used movie props of all time and it’s interesting to see how many films some props actually make it into. For example, a car license plate (2GAT123) that is listed in the TotalFilm article is said to have appeared in more than 17 films! Thats more than some movie stars!

Special Lighting

A production buyer can’t always rely on the studio stores and for the majority of items it’s necessary for them to actually go out and source and buy props. Some brands pride themselves on appearances of their products in TV and film productions. One such brand that I noticed recently was Porta Romana. They make designer lighting and have an impressive section on their website listing some of the appearances their products have made. Porta Romana’s list includes Mirror Mirror, Die Hard 5 and Skyfall amongst others. There is no doubt that movie appearances raise the profile of any product.

The Fans

The buying of props by fans is an industry that is only set to grow. Original, prominent and rare items are of course the most prized possessions, but for most of us these will be well out of reach. In some cases you can buy an item that’s been used by a studio right off of the high street shelf, well an identical copy that hasn’t physically been used in the film. For example you can find Porta Romana lamps for sale online.

Business Opportunities

For any budding Entrepreneurs out there, the prop industry might make a good venture if you’re willing to go that extra mile and make advances into other countries. The market of props in countries that are just seeing their own film industries improve might prove a great opportunity for those willing to take risks. One such country with great potential is Nigeria. Nigeria is currently experiencing a boom in its film industry and it’s a boom that has been predicted to continue for some time. Many Nigerians are opting for home grown blockbusters over their Hollywood counterparts and in future significant props from these films have the potential to make a good return.

 

About the Author:

Sally Stacey is a keen writer and business owner who divides her time between writing and running her bridal shop.

Indie Film ‘Pulp’ to be released on Xbox Video in US & Canada

Category : Entertain Me, Featured, Movies, Xbox

The indie comedy, Pulp, made history last year by becoming the first film to be released on Xbox Video in the UK. Since its initial release, the film has gone on to find audiences in Australia and New Zealand, as well as garner attention in the London Comedy scene. With a nomination for the London Comedy Film Festival Discovery Award and selection for the Just for Laughs Comedy Film Festival, you can be sure Pulp will tickle the funny bone.

Courtesy of Pulp Official Website

Looking to capitalize on the successful partnership again, Pulp seeks to expand their audience when it releases on Xbox Video in the US and Canada on January 14th, 2014. On the upcoming expanded release, Pulp co-director and producer, Adam Hamdy, had this to say:

Xbox Video did a great job of helping us find an audience for the film in the UK, Australia & New Zealand and we’re excited to be launching the film with Xbox Video in the US and Canada.”

It is good to see content providers enjoying their partnership with Xbox as the platform has the potential to reach so many households. Xbox Video is embracing the deal as well. Paul Davidson, Director of Xbox Video, stated:

Bringing Pulp to new audiences around the world enhances our offering for Xbox Live customers, who crave new and exciting content. We’re incredibly honored to introduce Pulp to new audiences around the world on Xbox Video.”

Pulp will be available for purchase at a special promotional price of $3.99 for SD and $4.99 for HD during the first 2 weeks following the January 14th release.

Below, you will find a synopsis as well as the official trailer. Included after the trailer is a scene from the film.

Synopsis: Infinite Finity. Thunder Racers. Rat Warriors. Junk Comics’s library of titles has been referred to as the ‘worst material printed since Mein Kampf’.  Tony Leary, the nice-guy owner of Junk Comics, is gearing up for one last roll of the dice. His new superhero title, The Sodomizer, launches at the British International Comic Show, and nothing will stop Tony from making it a success.  Nothing except a gang of Geordie criminals who are using another comic company to launder their dirty money. Tony is drafted by the police to identify the culprits and bring them to justice.  Aided by his trusty geek sidekicks, Rick and Keith, Tony must defy the odds if he is to become a real life hero.

Disclosure: Video contains foul language which may not be appropriate for work or small children. You have been warned.

For more information about Pulp, you can find them online at:

Official Website: http://www.pulpthemovie.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pulpthemovie
Twitter: @pulpthemovie

Watching the Web: 2014 IAWTV Award Winners

Category : E-vents, Entertain Me, Featured, Watching the Web

Tonight, the Web Entertainment industry got dressed up to celebrate their own with the 2014 International Association of Web Television (IAWTV) Awards.

Courtesy of IAWTV

Courtesy of IAWTV

The award show takes place during the New Media Expo (NMX) being held in Las Vegas. Carrie Preston (True Blood, The Good Wife, Person of Interest) took on the hosting duties with awards presented by fellow IAWTV members.

 

And the award goes to…

Best Online Channel
WIGS

Best Original Score
Damon Criswell, Continuum

Best Makeup/Special Effects
Bianco Appice, Fallout: Nuka Break

Best Costume Design
Fallout: Nuka Break

Best Art Direction & Production Design
Eric Whitney, Continuum

Best Animated Series
RWBY

Best Female Performance in a Comedy
Hannah Spear, Versus Valerie

Best Male Performance in a Comedy
Brad Bell, HUSBANDS

Best Hosted Series (Live)
My Damn Channel Live

Best Hosted Series (Pre-recorded)
Tabletop

Best Documentary Series
Tailgate 32

Best Variety Series
Kids React

Best Directing (Drama)
Rodrigo Garcia, Blue

Best Directing (Comedy)
Scott Brown, Destroy the Alpha Gammas

Best Directing (Non-Fiction)
Tom Grey, Cosplay Piano

Best Interactive/Social Media Experience
Carrie Hayden, State of Syn

Best Supplemental Content
Super Geeked Up

Best Live Event
Comedy Gives Back 2013

Best Returning Series
Squaresville

Best Editing
Phil Bucci, Destroy the Alpha Gammas

Best Ensemble Performance
HUSBANDS

Best Host (Live)
Beth Hoyt, My Damn Channel Live

Best Host (Pre-recorded)
Wil Wheaton, Tabletop

Best Educational Series
AWEME/Man at Arms

Best News Series
AMC Movie Talk

Best Writing (Drama)
Nikki Racklin, CUCKOO

Best Writing (Comedy)
Brad Bell & Jane Espenson, HUSBANDS

Best Writing (Non-Fiction)
What’s Trending

Best Male Performance in a Drama
Milo Ventamiglia, Chosen

Best Female Performance in a Drama
Julia Stiles, Blue

Best Cinematography
Marco Mazzei, 10,000 Days

Best Visual Effects
Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome

Best Drama Series
Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome

Best Comedy Series
HUSBANDS

 

Star Wars, Steampunk and Smattering: San Diego Mini Maker Faire

Category : Conventions, Entertain Me, Featured, Geek Rants, Travel

Kittens, if the chilly, San Diego rain wasn’t a prompt to play indoors this December, the siren of invention, engineering,  technology and design was enough to lure a capacity-crowd of the curious to the first San Diego Mini Maker Faire. Ringing its knell from the warm beauty of the Spanish Mission-styled Del Mar Fairgrounds, this newest stop for the San Diego geek train proved bustling, hectic and promising. Besides, it’s Del Mar, kids! Even a permanent guest at the Hotel del Coronado needs a change of scenery once in a bit and this girl needs only an eighth of a reason to pop over “Where the Surf Meets the Turf”!

"In cosmological terms, S.D. Maker Faire was what is known as a big bang event." Photo: Jeff Kubina

“In cosmological terms … S.D. Mini Maker Faire was what is known as a big bang event.” Photo: Jeff Kubina

Billed as The Greatest Show (and Tell) on Earth, Maker Faire is a congress of the imaginative and a place to share, and sell, ideas and wares. Known as the Maker Movement, this creative-following is gaining steam worldwide, with Faires staged from the Bay Area to New York, from Dublin to Rome, from Tokyo to Sydney. December 2K13 was San Diego’s initiation with its first ever, and hopefully annual, Mini Maker Faire. (Why Mini? Based on New York’s version, there is much room to grow.)

An all-ages gathering of tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, science clubs, authors, artists, students, and commercial exhibitors, Maker Faire worldwide is a cerebral wonderland for anyone with an imagination and the temerity to do something with it. Like a geeky cocktail party, minus the good booze (although some form of vile, domestic, beerwater was available at John Dillinger prices), the gathering is, as Maker Faire claims, a family-friendly festival of invention, creativity and resourcefulness … part science fair, part county fair, and part something entirely new.

Waiting in a very long, very slow, very wet line to enter San Diego’s first Faire, a talkative and cheerful USD student spoke authoritatively about the Bay Area venue, claiming it to be, with just a dash of good-natured condescension, “much bigger, way better and lots of actual symposia and lectures”. Fretting about the $12 entrance fee, wishing she had purchased the cheaper, $10 ticket online, she hoped San Diego’s effort would be worth it. Sizing up the hall’s exterior from under her fur-trimmed parka-hood, she sneered a bit and said with a twisted smile, “Kinda doubt it.”

Whilst the entry fee, plus $15 parking was relatively steep (Consider the Grand Dame of geek fests, San Diego Comic-Con, runs $12-$42/day) and the line was agonizingly slow (only two ticket windows), the cerebral and visual stimuli inside Bing Crosby Hall assuaged the lighter wallet and damp boots. Awaiting the rain- and line-weary crowds was a bevy of crafting booths, science experiments and technological demos, including a proverbial explosion in the popularity of 3-D printing: Yoda heads, TARDIS and Millennium Falcons proving the most popular products of the 3-D craze. The most inspiring, fascinating and useful of the 3-D buzz? Robohands: building appendages for those with hand anomalies, in mere hours! Don’t have $80K for a prosthetic? No worries. A set of blueprints and a 3-D printer (approx. $2K to purchase; a pittance to rent; maybe even one exists in your office) and you’ve got a hand by day’s end.

If one’s avocation, vocation or profession tends toward technology, real science, science-fiction or even steampunk, one would be pleased in the tightly-packed confines of the Faire. To boot, Comic-Con and WonderCon regulars would note some friendly faces on the periphery: San Diego Star Wars Society and San Diego R2-D2 Builders Club, to name a couple.

San Diego Star Wars Society: ask for Thomas! Photo: JSDevore

San Diego Star Wars Society: ask for Herr Thomas! Photo: JSDevore

San Diego Star Wars Society and San Diego R2-D2 Builders Club shared a space and, as one would expect of them, brought a fan’s enthusiasm to the franchises. SDSWS is like AA, for Star Wars geeks. If they put out a calendar, Tina Fey-as-Liz Lemon-as-Princess Leia-as-hologram would be their centerfold. Meet-ups are a way for fellow San Diego Star Wars freaks to gather and geek out over any and all things SW. From movie marathons to cosplay-and-props workshops, from collecting and gaming to convention field trips and even charitable events (notably Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation: Fighting Childhood Cancer, One Cup at a Time), the simple goal of this SoCal space sodality is to have a good time with like-minded dorks.

If Thomas, a kindly Swiss San Diegan manning the booth, is any indication of the folk you’ll meet at SDSWS, this coterie of Chewbacca connoisseurs would indeed be a pleasant diversion from the leagues of snarky, snippy, Star-savants out there, of both Wars and Trek. Welcoming, informative and inclusive, Thomas was anathema to so many Star Wars experts blitzing about the planet, propelled by their own hot air.  Smiling and eager to chat, hopeful to bring anyone into the fold, even the wholly uninitiated, Thomas offered no snorts of derision or condescending blinks when fielding even the simplest questions from children and adults alike. Enthusiastically, and with the slightest Teutonic accent, he shared the simple mission of SDSWS: “Come and join us to talk about Star Wars and have a good time!”

If the future isn’t your gig, but futuristic is, Gears & Roebuck: Rusty Junk Emporium and The San Diego Steampunk Community (including the Adventures of Drake & McTrowell: Perils in a Postulated Past) were on-hand, in very wee numbers, it should be noted, to hawk a few antique wares, tell some tall tales and share the collective mission of steampunkers worldwide: “We fight with invention, we fight with ingenuity. Full steam ahead! All aboard!” Our own Dr. Lucy, naturally was in Heaven; the gears in her own noggin whirring and ticking as she flitted between the two booths, trying on air-conditioned pith helmets and mechanized corsets, and testing the efficacy of thermometer-regulated moon backpacks and giant, sterling silver spoons for feeding her pet octopus Onslow, back at our Hotel Del.

Capt. D.D. Cumulus and Lady Opal Nightstream, I presume? Photo: JSDevore

Capt. D.D. Cumulus and Lady Opal Nightstream, I presume? Photo: JSDevore

Generally a well-read, sartorially-intense and whimsical crew, the Victorian votaries are tinkerers extraordinaire, taking cues from the likes of  Jules Verne to Bill Gates. Steampunk inspiration reaches back to Sir Charles Wheatstone and his stereoscopic imaging (predecessor to today’s 3-D imaging) and forward to Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. If you’ve yet to explore the world of steampunk, do acquaint yourself. If you’re already in the know, and living in San Diego, the San Diego Steampunk Community just might have the perfect, Phileas Foggesque, space-age tool to scratch that ruddy itch.

Will the Maker Faire make it to San Diego again next year? The Maker Movement is gaining traction in metropoli everywhere.  Judging by the Mars-level heat generated in this sardine-packed venue, it seems plumb stupid to not capitalize again on the funky, inventive and creative nature of San Diego folk. However, like Kim Kardashian’s jeans, the Bing Crosby Exhibition Hall was packed to the seams and ready to burst if anyone took a deep breath. My recommendation, promoters? Bigger jeans and maybe some air-conditioned pith helmets.

Air-conditioned pith helmet: a necessary device for any con! Photo: JSDevore

An air-conditioned pith helmet with every ticket! Photo: JSDevore

Full steam ahead! Ahoy! Abyssinia and Merrie Christmas!

 

Hannah’s other fave places to haunt online?

JennyPop.net  jenniferdevore.blogspot.com and amazon.com/author/jenniferdevore

Follow @JennyPopNet #MakerFaire #StarWars #Steampunk

Switchmas Brings Cheer To Stupid Christmastown

1

Category : Entertain Me, Featured, Geek Out, Holiday, Movies, Reviews

When is $750K a pittance? When it’s Hollywood-oriented and gets you a feature-length film, shot over sixty-days and employs no less than the formidable and jauntily avuncular Elliott Gould (M*A*S*H, Ocean’s Eleven, Friends). When do you say Mazel Tov? When that film blasts out of the holiday film gate like Seabiscuit on fire and ignites a dynamite line straight to Hanukkah and Christmas movie mainstays.

Switchmas (2012, Von Piglet Productions) is so ding-dang cheerful, so sweet, so good-natured, so family-friendly, so inclusive, so sprightly, so hopeful that one just might puke from its syrupy tinge, if it was not such a fun film. Switchmas is Disney-quality, without the Disney-dollars. Should you find your list of holiday flicks in need of an update, would it kill you to add Switchmas? It slots in beautifully with the other tent poles holding firm the genre: Elf, A Christmas Story, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Christmas Vacation et al.

Cheer up, Seth Cohen! It's an O.C. Christmukkah! Photo: TheChanel

Cheer up, Seth Cohen! It’s an O.C. Christmukkah! Photo: TheChanel

Mr. Gould, known lovingly to so many of us as Jack Geller, Ross & Monica’s dad, isn’t the only point-of-light in the Little Film That Could. David Deluise (Wizards of Waverly Place, Stargate-SG1) portrays Max Finkelstein, an optimistic auteur on the fringes of Hollywood and president of Finkelstein Films: “Making the World You Want To See”. Max believes he has everything but “a name” to catapult him to Woody Allenesque fame and respect. (If The Reindeer From Planet 9 can’t get him an Oscar, what can?) As Max tells a potential client (art imitates life here), “Believe me! You don’t need big money to make a movie with big heart!” When “a name” drops in his lap, Max gets the filmic opportunity of a lifetime. The name appears in the form of has-been, aging, bubble-gum starlet Jennifer Cameo, best-known for her role as Desperate Jane (played by Julianne Christie).

“I am Desperate Jane! I have fans and a blog and I am in control!”

The conflict? To optimize Ms. Cameo’s last gasp of stardom, Max must personally rip out and eat his own son’s heart.

“Its’ the Finkelstein Christmas tree!”

“Finkelsteins do not have Christmas trees.”

“Why not?”

“You know why! We’re Jewish!”

“Well do we have to be?”

“Ira!”

“I mean at Christmas?”

“You know what? Heritage, tradition, culture. Who needs it?”

Resistance is futile. Therein lies the rub. Little Ira J. Finkelstein wants nothing more than to celebrate Christmas. “He’s obsessed with The Christmas!” To assuage this desire, Max and Mama Rosie agree to take him to Aspen for Christmas, land of twinkle lights, snowy windowsills, hot cocoa and Louis Vuitton luggage. Then, Miss Cameo is attached to The Reindeer From Planet 9 and Aspen go bye-bye. “If this goes good, we can go to Aspen every year”. Instead, even after a heart-melting plea from Ira about promises and mishpucha, Mom and Dad ship him off, to where else? “Florida, for The Christmas”. Now, a holiday with the Flah-ri-dah grandparents includes a dream grampy: supportive, doting and effervescent Sam Finkelstein, played to freylech perfection by Elliott Gould.

In classic, Shakespearean-style though, during Ira’s layover at the airport, on his way to “stupid Florida”, he meets fellow holiday misanthrope Mikey Amato: a poor, Christian boy of newly-divorced parents who -wait for it- wants nothing more than to spend Christmas on a warm beach with some rich grandparents. Poor little shnook, he’s on his way to “stupid Christmastown” for a week of gift-giving, parade-going, snowman-building and cocoa-drinking with his gentle, gentile, WASPy cousins, who, fortunately, haven’t seen him in quite a while. Boom! A quick switch of some nerd glasses, an old parka, bangs brushed down and the convenient exposure that even Ira’s own grandparents haven’t seen him in quite a while either, and voilà! You’ve got The Switchmas. “That’s no Finkelstein! It’s a different kid! What, is he blind?!”

There’s even a pup. Any good holiday film has a dog. This little guy is Killer, a.k.a. Mistletoe: a big-headed, sweet-eyed pit bull who brings to mind The Little Rascals’ Petey.

To boot, if you happen to have a grandparent-Jonesing, Switchmas can assuage that, too. Mikey’s all too-foreign poolside, beachfront, grandparent-sojourn in The Sunshine State is a non-stop party of chocolate geld, fruity drinks, positive affirmations and socks-and-sandals. To this girl, it sounds equally perfect to my own Christmastown luxuries.

(Can we talk?) Raised in a beautifully festive Christmas household, as in Mom could teach Martha Stewart a thing or two, I was annually blessed with a pile of presents that would make Santa blush and enough hugs and kisses for a Strawberry Shortcake episode; it was a veritable embarrassment of riches that happily continues to this day. What did I lack, however? Grandparents. Always feeling I missed out on something grand in this respect, characters like Sam and Ruth Finkelstein bring a broad smile to my gentile pearlies. Moreover, my paternal great-grandparents and grandparents were Jewish, hailing from Vienna, Austria and, eventually, New York City (The Bronx and Long Island): Jakob & Irma Gerstl, and Rudi & Rosalyn Gerstle, respectively. Because I never got to know them, my noodle has compensated over the years with a special love for vintage handbags, antique jewelry, The Golden Girls, Agatha Christie novels and Queen Elizabeth II. (What is in Her Majesty’s purse, BTW? Did you notice she even has it next to her on the floor in the 4G Royal Portrait? Dying to know. I bet Werther’s Originals, a Waterman pen and a surplus of Irish-linen hankies.) As Angela philosophizes on The Office, “Some of us don’t have grandmothers. Some of us have to be our own grandmothers.”

Best of all, for those of us endlessly searching Netflix’ “Recently Added” queue for the unequaled, quintessentially ’90s TV-series Northern Exposure, the fair Cynthia Geary plays Libby Wilson, the beautifully-blonde auntie with the rosy, mountain-air glow who awaits her, fortunately, long-unseen nephew in Christmastown, WA. True, she is meant to look haggard and toiled, the overworked mom of three and neglected wife to an alcoholic, unemployed schmegegy of a dad; but the MUA failed here, folks. Despite the tousled locks and the persistent frown, Geary (Northern Exposure, Smoke Signals) looks as fresh-scrubbed and nature-girl beautiful as she did twenty-plus years ago as Shelly Tambo-Vincour in the wilds of Cicely, AK. (Apropos, Northern Exposure was shot on location in Roslyn, WA; Switchmas was shot in Leavenworth, WA and Seattle.)

As with any good film serving as part-morality play, there are a few direct lessons involved. Unaware of the notable, Jewish contributions to Christmas song and film? Pay close attention to Christmastown’s Santa Claus, Murray Lefkowitz. (This means you, Garrison Keillor.)

“A Jewish Santa?”

“Who else would work on Christmas?”

Fretting about the melding of Hanukkah and Christmas on the proverbial celluloid? Meh. Christmas is a mélange, a spiritual and pagan amalgam of millennia stewed in winter celebration, thanksgiving and festivity. The Christmas we know today was not celebrated until 4thC C.E., when Emperor Constantine defected from his pagan beliefs and essentially founded Christianity. He declared the 25th as the certifiable day of joy to coincide with the same time during which the ancient Babylonians, Romans, Celts and Norsemen had already been celebrating for eons, knowing full well he would not be able to stop them from said-jubilation and Bacchanalian endeavours.

In the end, I am a wordsmith; words mean something to me and are not to be tossed about hither and thither. Therefore, I refrain from the ignominy of such phrases as “government aid”, “literally starving” and, worst of all, “instant classic”. However, I am finding it sehr difficult to refrain from the latter. Switchmas might just be that, an instant classic. Only time will tell, and JennyPop’s annually-updated, recommended, Christmas-viewing list.

Abyssinia and Merry Christmas, Ira J. Finkelstein!

Because this stuff is important, especially if your name is listed:

Directed by

Sue Corcoran

Written by

Douglas Horn

Angie Louise

Sue Corcoran

Cast

David Deluise as Max Finkelstein

Elijah Nelson as Ira J. Finkelstein

Elliott Gould as Sam Finkelstein

Angela DiMarco as Rosie Finkelstein

Justin Howell as Mikey Amato

Cynthia Geary as Libby Wilson

Available via DVD, Blu-Ray, Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Instant Video

Follow @JennyPopNet #Christmasfilms #Switchmas

Hannah’s other fave places to haunt online?

JennyPop.net  jenniferdevore.blogspot.com and amazon.com/author/jenniferdevore

The Global Future of VoIP

1

Category : Bytes, Featured, Tech

There is an international trend that’s in full swing – older, copper wire-based systems are being passed over in favor of internet-based communication. However, some nations and regions are still significantly farther ahead than others in their use of this more modern technology.

Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) will be the fastest-growing industry in the world over the next several years. Nations are adapting to newer forms of digital communication at a blistering pace, which will have a significant impact in how they succeed in today’s online marketplace. As more businesses take to the internet to conduct significant portions of their marketing and operations, this is an extremely important advantage to have.

This technology is especially beneficial for nations that do not have the same types of highly developed communications infrastructures as others. Consider countries like Indonesia and India, which are among the worldwide leaders in growth of VoIP use, especially in mobile VoIP. Other countries, including Japan and South Korea, have seen their heavy investments in internet infrastructure pay off, as many people and businesses are switching to digital communications. Japan already has the second-most total VoIP subscribers, with growth rates still extremely high, and their 68.2% mobile proliferation rate is three times that of the closest Western nation.

The following graphic from WhichVoIP illustrates the future of global VoIP growth. Take a look and analyze the socioeconomic factors within nations that influence the success of VoIP technologies, including mobile.

Graphic courtesy of WhichVOIP

Graphic courtesy of WhichVOIP

It’s become quite clear that VoIP is here to stay, and this international trend of rapid growth is only just beginning. As technologies advance and receive more promotion by the government, one can expect these technologies to be the norm in communication sooner than later.

Graphic designed and shared by WhichVoIP.com

A Geek’s Thanksgiving: Thankful for TV, Tofurkey and Snoopy

Category : Entertain Me, Featured, Geek Out, Geek Rants, Holiday, Movies, Television

Kittens, I will admit this only once a year: San Diego is a bore, from Hallowe’en to New Year’s Day. Naturally, for we whom haunt the Hotel del Coronado, there is actually quite a bit to do here during the Holidays: ice skating by the sea, hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps at Babcock & Story, Christmas tree gazing, unique gift shopping and Victorian, holiday decor throughout every nook and cranny of our glorious, 125-year old resort. Still, and some of you, especially you wheats in the Midwest, might prefer this, the weather is predictably mild: average low of 54, high of 69 and 75% chance of sunshine. Sounds great, but growing up a Beantown gal, I need some autumn leaves, heavy rain and a reason to wear some amazing, vintage wool coats. The fam, Dr. Harvey, Mother Hildy and Big Bro Hugh are still in Boston; funny enough, they’d rather be here! (Fortunately, our own Dr. Lucy and I will be headed to San Francisco this Christmas for the annual Dickens Christmas Fair! Plenty of  rain, wool coats and, for our Dr. Lucy, lots of steampunk! Check back in December for a full report and, natch, a slideshow!)

Let this ghostdame tell you nothing is more glorious than an autumn day so perfect it is of filmic proportions: like the art department hand-painted every leaf the perfect shade of red, sprinkled Victorian window panes with the just the right amount of raindrops and yellow gels were placed on all the interior lighting, making a seaside coffeehouse more like Grandmama’s Gingerbread Kitchen, alive with the scents of espresso, cinnamon and nutmeg. This is generally best experienced in Annapolis, Boston or Williamsburg, not Southern California. Of course, there are a few things which make the Holidays a little more festive in swingin’ SoCal, and in those I partake happily and heavily.

PSL, Pumpkin Spice Love Photo: JSDevore

PSL, Pumpkin Spice Love Photo: JSDevore

Now, worshiping at the foamy foot of Starbucks, I await the legendary Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL) all year long; yet, it’s all so short-lived, hidden behind the day-after-Halloween red-cup brigade. Design a Thanksgiving cup, Sbux, if you please: tobacco background with golden-yellow and brick-red swirls steaming up the cup, all topped with a turkey silhouette. Ahh, yesss. I can see it now. Well done, me!

In fact, it is somewhat odd, this Thanksgiving penchant of mine, considering the fact that I am a vegetarian (since about the age of fifteen … let’s see, that’s about 1905) and a Native American: 1/8 Choctaw … so, I may make all the “Feather, not dot” and “Casino, not convenience store” jokes I want. Oh, don’t get your p.c. panties in a proverbial bunch. I’ll bet there was a joke around some dinner table in Bangalore during Diwali that had the potential to offend me, had I known of it. Let’s all have a sense of humour, shall we?

Apropos to annoying political correctness, similar to Wednesday Addams in Addams Family Values or Bobby Hill in King of the Hill‘s “Spin the Choice” I have certainly been a teenaged, Thanksgiving pain-in-the-ass. As a young punk I oft protested the massacre of Native Americans, the buffalo and the turkeys, all from the courageous seat of a warm and comfortable, upper-middle-class dining room, free of any consequence other than eye-rolls served up alongside King’s Hawaiian rolls. These mild, semi-public assertions were usually manifested via either wardrobe choices (Ralph Lauren southwestern-motif dress, turquoise jewelry, fringed Frye boots), pouting and/or preaching (the year I went veggie), or making my own, authentic succotash (vile disaster). Of course, as the turkey goes, nothing has chilled my tenacity there. I have not partaken in a Thanksgiving turkey or ham since my early teens. To that end, I also will not break a wishbone; the concept makes me shudder.

In the end, I have happily come to realize that other people’s habits are not my concern and it is awfully pompous of me to declare anything at a family holiday, however glossy my hair may be that day. I eat my Tofurkey (Thanks, Mom!!) as others eat their trusting birds and large, baby-pink, farm animals with the suspected I.Q. of a human six-year old and we all share copious amounts of wine, candied yams, coffee, laughs and familial love.

For us vegetarians, Snoopy’s traditional Thanksgiving feast is even better than Tofurkey!

This is where I cease the obligatory “I am thankful for … ” liturgy. I am most thankful for the fact that I neither need nor care to share my deepest and most emotional Thanksgiving musings with a bunch of strangers. My beloveds and I already know the score and it need not be spake thusly.

Oh, wait a minute, I am thankful for one thing I feel I must share. I am Thankful, with a capital “T”, for Television, with a capital “T”! Well, television and film. To wit, as I hope I helped a few lost souls find their way through the Hallowe’en television mist, I humbly offer a Tofurkey platter piled high with moist and steamy media goodness. Happy Tofurkey Day, America!!

Poor little Geek Girl; she never had a chance. Photo: JSDevore

“I don’t think watching TV was the pilgrims’ original intent on Thanksgiving.”

-Diane Chambers, Cheers, “Thanksgiving Orphans”

 

  • Fave Thanksgiving TV Episodes!

King of the Hill “Spin the Choice”

Bob’s Burgers “An Indecent Thanksgiving Proposal”

The Big Bang Theory “The Thanksgiving Decoupling”

The Simpsons “Bart vs. Thanksgiving”

South Park “A History Channel Thanksgiving”

Frasier “A Lilith Thanksgiving”

Northern Exposure “Thanksgiving”

Little House on the Prairie “The Little House Years: Part I”

American Dad “There Will Be Bad Blood”

Outsourced “Temporary Monsanity”

Cheers “Thanksgiving Orphans”

Rugrats “The Turkey Who Came to Dinner”

Scrubs “My Day Off”

Seinfeld “The Mom and Pop Store”

The Bob Newhart Show “Over the River and Through the Woods”

WKRP in Cincinnati “Turkeys Away”

Friends Any Thanksgiving episode …

“The One With the Rumor”

“The One With All the Thanksgivings”

“The One With Chandler in a Box”

“The One With the Late Thanksgiving”

“The One With Rachel’s Other Sister”

“The One Where Ross Got High”

“The One Where Chandler Doesn’t Like Dogs”

“The One Where Underdog Gets Away”

“The One With the List”

“The One With the Football”

 

  • Fave Thanksgiving Films!

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

Garfield’s Thanksgiving

Hannah and Her Sisters

Home for the Holidays

Martha Stewart Holidays: Classic Thanksgiving

An Old-fashioned Thanksgiving

Addams Family Values (“The Turkey Song”)

 

Did I forget anything, cats? Send me a Tweet @JennyPopNet!

Abyssinia, kids! See you at San Francisco’s Cow Palace for the Great Dickens Christmas Fair!

 

Hannah’s other fave places to haunt online?

JennyPop.net  jenniferdevore.blogspot.com and amazon.com/author/jenniferdevore

The Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror: Lovecraft, Existentialism and Free Donuts

Category : Comics, Entertain Me, Featured, Literature

The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.

- “The Call of Cthulhu”, H.P. Lovecraft

Dieticians might be shocked; fast-food might be far better for our health than previously thought. Krusty Burgers, to be specific, may very well save mankind, or at the very least, save us from a mass, alien enslavement of the human race. Yet, let’s save that for later.

Whilst each Halloween blissfully brings FOX’s Animation Domination Treehouse of Horror, this spine-chilling time of the year also brings bliss in analog format: Bongo Entertainment’s own Treehouse of Horror. (For the uninitiated, Bongo Entertainment is the comic book publishing and distribution arm of the Matt Groening empire, spawned in 1991 by the ravenous needs of Simpsons fans the world over.)

Free donuts or true love? Photo: JSDevore

Free donuts or true love? Photo: JSDevore

Narrating three spooky, Simpsons tales, similar to the televised format, Treehouse of Horror the comic book delivers a sometimes darker, more sinister version of the bright and cheery, if not ever-twisted Springfield we visit via the beloved Boob Tube. Neither a companion piece nor an official complement, the comic book may be a different beast altogether (artists, writers, creep level), but like any Simpsons offering, it is replete with academic frames-of-reference, historical nods and cerebral asides. Never one to spoon-feed the consumer mushy peas for the mind, the Groening network presumes you know a thing or two about a thing or two; and if you don’t, that’s your referential loss. Treehouse of Horror #19 is no exception.

Though each of the three tales is a stand-alone, there exists a clear theme throughout this year’s issue: World Domination. Via public school lunches or ancient, dormant overlords, be ye warned: thy cushy, quirky, sunshine-yellow life is available only for a limited time. Inspired by a 1928 short story titled The Call of Cthulhu by American horror-writer H.P. Lovecraft, the final yarn of the Treehouse triad best connects the philosophy of 1920s existentialism with our ageless Simpsons. Lovecraft’s story tells of a slumbering sea monster -part-octopus/part-dragon/part-mustachioed gentleman- at the ready for an Earth-shattering awakening, enabled by any accidental and naive repetition of a bygone curse: Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn. (Thank you, Bart and Milhouse.) Coming off the heels of WWI and riding the sunrise of the Great Depression, the concept of a deadly, sleeping, unseen giant must have been a useful literary tool in Lovecraft’s paranoid day.

Fitting for Halloween, the holiday’s pagan roots stretching the tissue-thin layer of protection betwixt this world and that of the spirits, Treehouse of Horror is always a full-colour, hilarious reminder of the evil that forever lurks. When the pretty, lace veil of perceived reality is finally lifted, the cavernous, black hole that is the charred face of true reality screeches her call of annihilation like a banshee in an abandoned, Irish castle. The jarring, depressing, futility of modern life exposed in Lovecraft’s stories is confirmed by the realization of a secret, malevolent, alternate universe. Lovecraft called it “cosmic horror”, this diseased and hopeless contemplation that humankind is worthless, insignificant and mindless, that the universe at large is innately hostile towards and conspiring against the very existence of the woeful human.

Writing in the first quarter of the 20thC., Howard Phillips Lovecraft was cosmically attached at the skull, like a conjoined litter of depressives, to fellow brooding, turn-of-the-century thinkers like Nietzsche, Kafka, Sartre and Woody Allen. (Okay, Woody’s quite a bit later, but you get it. Fretful, pensive to distraction and dizzied by death and dying.) What is man’s place in this mad, absurd, pointless world? Why bother? What does it all matter, when clearly we are slated for a brief, impotent sojourn on Earth, only to be ultimately condemned  to death, deterioration, desiccation and dust.

Meh. Lighten up, already! Existentialism, smexistentialism. Springfield still has Kwik-E-Mart squishees, Krusty burgers and Lard Boy donuts. Plus, it’s Hallowe’en! How bad does mankind really have it in this cruelly short, dismally-fated, rat race? Well, don’t ask Friedrich Nietzsche, ask Ned Flanders.

  • Tale No. 1: “Monster Mash-up”

Free beer and donuts vs. true love? Easy peasy call, right? Homer is lured into a haunted house by the Bacchanalian siren and finds himself accosted by a host of local characters, all morphed into classic monsters of lit and film. Krusty Hellraiser, Barney, Moe & Duffman zombies, Comic Book Guy From the Black Lagoon, and Reverend Lovejoy as Satan, of course. As a ghost-Marge entices Homer to join her in the grave, he must decide if true love or donuts and beer shall comfort his mortal soul. Plus, there are the cavity probes. You know you like it.

And this door doesn’t hold anything better! Nothing but a post-apocalyptic cityscape’s bleak nothingness of rubble and ruins. And zombies probably.    -Homer

  • Tale No.2: “Alienated”

School cafeteria lunches never tasted so good! With lunch lady Doris and her usual gruel M.I.A., students are dining on substitute vittles. With the new chow, kiddies become smarter, more efficient and develop a serious case of what Ned Flanders calls ‘sass mouth’. Yet, will the fast-food tables turn? Will Professor Frink and little Lisa uncover the mystery of the missing cafeteria meat food?  Will Krusty Burger and its foodesque, lethargy-invoking, quasi-edible slurry save the world; or will Krusty simply teach the aliens how to serve man?

Rod and Todd have taken to answering me by using the word ‘whatever’. Also, I think they’re mutilating cattle.     -Ned Flanders

  • Tale No. 3: “Cthulhu? Gesundheit!”

Be careful what you wish for, Milhouse. Borrowing heavily from the Cthulhu mythos, or the Lovecraftian milieu (Fun to say, right? Try working it in at Thanksgiving.), Bart and Milhouse are assigned to catalogue the long-forgotten tomes of Springfield Elementary School’s basement-library. There they find an ancient spell book of the dead: Necronomicon. (Good name for a Comic-Con goth panel.) By speaking one simple tongue-twister, Cthulhu and his ilk can be called from the depths of the sea, like a genie from his bottle, to do the bidding of his new master. Will the Kraken-like sea creature enslave and devour the human race, or will Santa’s Little Helper be a good doggie and save the day?

Bart, where does A Tale of Two Cities go?     -Milhouse

How about in the trash? Any book that can’t make up its mind where it wants to be set can’t possibly be any good!     -Bart

Pay attention, humans! Cthulhu has been awakened!

Pay attention, humans! Cthulhu has been awakened! Photo: Dennis van Zuijlekom

Happy Halloween, Earthlings!

Ooh! An actual beer and donuts joint?! Well … I guess I have a little time to stop!    -Homer

 

 

Hannah’s other fave places to haunt online?

JennyPop.net  jenniferdevore.blogspot.com and amazon.com/author/jenniferdevore

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Syfy’s Being Human – Season 4: First Look

Category : Entertain Me, Featured, Television

Graphic Credit: Syfy

Graphic Credit: Syfy

Does the supernatural peaks your interest? A ghost, a vampire and a werewolf become housemates and chaos ensues. Sounds like the perfect supernatural setup to me.

If you have been following Being Human like I have, you know there has been no rest for the wicked…or those who just want to lead a normal life. With this first look at season four, it looks like our favorite housemates will not get a moment’s rest. The new season will pick up where last season left off – with our favorite foursome in peril. Will they be able to escape the things that go bump in the night for another season?

Click the graphic below for a sneak peek at season four, airing in January 2014!

Batman Roundup: The Evolution of Villain Costuming

Category : Featured, Geek Out

There have been four “eras” of Batman in film. The first was the Adam West classic from the 1960′s TV show, directed by Leslie H. Martinson. Then came the quick succession of four films by Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher. Most recently, we’ve seen Christopher Nolan’s gritty reboots. You can chart the progress of Batman movies in many ways, but my favorite is to look at how each director costumed the villains the Dark Knight faced. Here are four of our favorite Batman bad guys and the attire they created havoc in.

 

Bane

Photo Credit: Dave Mathis

Photo Credit: Dave Mathis

The most drastic difference in presentation has to go to Bane. Bane was presented in Batman & Robin as a muscle-bound lackey to Poison Ivy and Mr. Freeze without any lines and with a serious luchador mask. He was seen again in The Dark Knight Rises as a pedantic mastermind, still muscly, but with only a small mask around his mouth and a sheepskin coat over military fatigues.

 

Photo Credit: Chrysler Group

Photo Credit: Chrysler Group

What’s interesting about Bane in these movies is that he’s actually represented quite well in both: his costume is spot-on in the first and his character is very close to correct in the second. Essentially, if you combine the cartoon-ish looks of Schumacher’s Bane and the devious intellect of Nolan’s, you should get something close to what Bane is like in the comics. He dresses like a wrestler and is an 8 foot tall monster, but he’s also an extraordinary genius.

 

 

Catwoman

Photo Credit: DC Nerd

Photo Credit: DC Nerd

While not technically a villain in most adaptations, Catwoman was certainly wicked in the 1966 movie. Lee Meriwether was cast to replace Julie Newmar, the first actress from the series, and donned the classic sparkly ensemble, complete with low belt, clawed gloves, and the iconic eared headband. Over thirty years later, the Catwoman of Tim Burton’s Batman Returns, played by Michelle Pfeiffer, is one of the best creepy/crazy/sexy villains in movie history. With her patchwork pleather body suit and starkly pale skin, she is Burton-esque to the max.

 

Photo Credit: Jordi Motlló

Photo Credit: Jordi Motlló

I wish I could skim right over Halle Barry’s version in the truly horrendous movie, Catwoman, but I cannot. Wait, you know what, yes, I can. I justify this with three reasons: 1) the character and story had nothing to do with DC comics; 2) her stripper-riffic costume is too much to bear; and 3) you can’t make me. Moving along to Nolan-verse…

 

 

Photo Credit: Horustr4n

Photo Credit: Horustr4n

When we heard that Disney darling Anne Hathaway had been cast in the newest Batman movie, some of us were a little worried. She’s just so smiley. I, myself, was rather pleased with her slick and approachable performance. Her monochromatic black jumpsuit is a little safe in terms of costuming, but it fit well with Nolan’s utilitarian approach to the Batman universe. With her high-tech thievin’ goggles that pivot into cat ears atop her head, she’s a stylish rendition of a favorite Batman anti-hero.

 

Two-Face

Graphic Credit: JD Hancock

Graphic Credit: JD Hancock

When making his Batman movies, Schumacher reportedly encouraged his actors to think of the movies as though they were cartoons. This is bizarrely evident in Batman Forever, wherein Jim Carrey’s Riddler prances about in a spandex jumpsuit and red hair. Where Burton embraced the Noir-like aspect of Gotham, Schumacher embraced the slap-stick of the cartoons.

 

The suit and makeup of Tommy Lee Jones’ Two-Face in Batman Forever is straight out of the cartoon, down to the split-personality fabrication change right down the middle. Ostentatious and wild and leopard print on one side and business on the other, you have to give them credit for going all-out.

Nolan chose to go another route, focusing on Dent before he became a madman. His Two-Face is half burned a fire and, as such, bears the scorched flesh and exposed muscle and bone of third degree burns. This is the most compelling re-vamp, in my opinion, because we see the event happen in the movie and his wounds remain symbolically open once he is transformed into a villain.

 

Joker

I definitely saved the kicker for last.

Cesar Romero played The Joker in the series and in the 1966 Batman. His kooky demeanor was matched by a truly kooky look: the clown makeup and bright colors were straight out of the comics. When Jack Nicholson played The Joker in the 1989 Batman, his costume was similar to Romero’s, except that his manic smile was a permanent scar instead of a facial expression. He also traded the green shirt beneath the purple suit for an orange and teal, eye-burning combo (and some of his kookiness for leering menace).

Flash forward forty years: Heath Ledger’s downplayed, shabby purple suit and green vest blended into the background as we were captivated by the terrifying magic happening on his face. Ledger’s expressions of insane glee were bolstered by the genius makeup that accompanied them. The scars, attributed to a botched surgical fix for acid burns in the 80′s movie, are left mysterious in their origin and accentuated by intentionally sloppy makeup, as though the Clown Prince of Crime had slapped it on in a fit.

 

In the progression of these beloved villains, their costumes communicate not only what decade they’re portrayed in, but also the ways that their characters have been reinterpreted. From the depictions of Catwoman’s slinkiness to Joker’s madness, the costumes tell a story that we can see (and cosplay).

 

Marie Sumner is a writer and general nerd. She loves cosplay, comics, cartoons, sci-fi, and a host of other fun stuff. She writes for Wholesale Halloween Costumes, resource for costume goodies from fake blood to Santa suits.

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