Storm of Words, A Game of Thrones Podcast – Season 4, Episode 1 “Two Swords”

Category : Entertain Me, Featured, Reviews, Storm of Words, Television

The HBO television series, Game of Thrones, has returned with Season 4. Also returning is Storm of Words, a Game of Thrones podcast! We’re back every week to discuss the latest episodes of the series and delve into the world George R.R. Martin created through his novels.

 

StormOfWords

 

Jessa Phillips & Alexander McGrath, joined by Kellen Harkins return to the Seven Kingdoms to discuss the episode, “Two Swords.” This episode is mostly spoiler-free; however, there is some discussion about how the series deviates from the novels.

*** Warning: There is a huge story spoiler at the 2 hour mark. Please skip ahead 30 seconds if you don’t want to be spoiled.

The primary focus of the show is the tv series, so if you haven’t read the books you can still enjoy the podcast. If you have read the novels, just think of it as bonus content :-)

 

 

CONTACT

Questions? Comments? We want to hear from you! Feel free to post a comment on the podcast entry at http://www.goodtobeageek.com, or email us at podcasts@goodtobeageek.com.

You can find Kellen Harkins in the DragonCon American Science Fiction & Fantasy Media Track Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/AmSFFMedia/.

Special thanks to Walid Feghali for the use of his music in the podcast. Be sure to check out his Sound Cloud profile page at http://soundcloud.com/walidfeghali to learn more about him and discover more of his music.

All audio clips for Game of Thrones are provided courtesy of HBO, http://www.hbo.com

Storm of Words is sponsored by Good To Be A Geek – let your geek run wild! Storm of Words is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

Conversation with the Cast of Lost Girl of Syfy

Category : Entertain Me, Featured, Television

For those genre fans living under a rock for the past three years, you might not have a clue of what Lost Girl is. Here is a quick synopsis. Created by Michelle Lovretta and produced by Jay Firestone and Prodigy Pictures. It is one of the show that is created, shot and produced in Canada that shows currently on Syfy.

 

Courtesy of NBC Universal

 

It’s lead is Bo, played by Anna Silk who has transitioned by not even knowing she was a Fae to a person of consequence and a rebel against the status quo of Fae society. In this realm, all creatures that are paranormal are Fae of some sort. She does this with the help of Kenzi, who has to be one of the best sidekicks ever created, and her friends: Dyson, a werewolf; Hale, a male siren; Trick, who we find out is her grandfather; Tamsin, a valkyrie and Lauren, a human doctor who specializes in Fae biology. An odd lot to be sure but a very solid ensemble cast with lots of wonderful recurring characters that pop in and out to make the team’s life interesting.

One of the unique qualities of the show is that Bo, being a succubus is bisexual. While that is notable, what makes it moreso is it is not treated as odd or unique, it’s just who she is. It is one element that makes this show one of the best written shows out there, in my humble opinion.

With that, I was given the privilege to be a part of a press call/Q&A hosted by Syfy which included several of the main cast. Joining several intrepid podcast and website reporters were cast members, Anna Silk, Ksenia Solo, Kris Holden – Reid, and Zoie Palmer. They handled all the questions thrown at them with laughter and thoughtful answers.

The questions themselves ran the gamut from ratings to plot twists to favorite moments.

Most of the characters in the show are Fae, so the question was put forward if Lauren or Kenzi would want to be Fae if they could. As was pointed out, Kenzi has dabbled in it herself. Zoie Palmer offered her thoughts that Lauren is essentially a character who experiments and would absolutely take that step if she thought it was possible. We have definitely been seeing Lauren stepping more and more out of her comfort zone in the past seasons and with some of her choices this season, I only see that progressing further. This was emphasized as she responded to questions about her scenes with Emmanuel Vaugier who plays the Morrigan, the leader of the Dark Fae. Lauren shifted sides this season and was able to act with Emmanuel for the first time. There was some nervousness she reported, since you never quite know if you’re going to ‘click’ with a fellow performer or not, but she was very happy with the work they did together and hopes for more scenes.

One of the more revealing and interesting points in the call came up when the cast was asked about the major plot twist in the “End of a Line” episode which recently aired in the US. Stop reading here if you haven’t seen this as we’re going to talk about a major spoiler!

In that episode, KC Collins’ character, Hale, is killed by the druid Mossimo. While I won’t get into my feelings on the death, other than saying it was painful, I do think it was a necessary and reasonable choice on the part of the writers. The cast discussed how they were affected and all of them praised KC and spoke about how busy he is as an actor and joked how they wanted to work on some of the shows he’s been on. For us geeks, he is also seen in Saving Hope, as Dr. Tom Reycraft. They insisted Lost Girl wouldn’t be as ‘cool’ without him around. Kris mentioned he thought it was bittersweet for him since he could still so clearly remember shooting the opening shots with KC from the first episode of the series.

This lead to the question about surprises, and if, as we have seen in other shows, the cast was caught by surprise as they read their scripts. Kris Holden-Reid fielded this one and brought forward the unusual nature of some smaller Canadian shows. They are pretty tight working units, with the writers and producers right there with the production end, so many of the changes and concepts that come up are bounced around between all of the creative staff. The actors get to toss in their thoughts about character development and it’s just as welcome. This was really a gem that I relished discovering, as it does not seem to be the case in many US led productions.

Tying into that concept is the question I asked about the maturing rivalry between Dyson and Lauren for Bo’s affections. Both Kris and Zoie offered they did not want to keep up the usual freshman-like attitude of one-upmanship that often occurs in these situations. That is not to say they wouldn’t now and then but they pointed out both of them have come to respect one other and see the value in the other person. That is not to say, they were quick to admit, that there wouldn’t be little jibs now and then between them over Bo.

A recent episode which gathered lots of attention was the “La Fae Époque.” In this episode, Bo went into Dyson’s memories, trying to find out what dark crime he was being held for, and was ‘him’ for that time. Most of the actors took up roles that were different for them – Lauren was a Fae lounge singer, Kenzi, a Fae mistress of ceremonies. They each commented on how their costumes were a lot tougher to wear, though Zoie Palmer seemed to have the easiest time since she has a lot of theatrical training and was able to utilize that knowledge. Although, Zoie admitted that even fake singing to her playback was a little tricky in the corset she wore. Ksenia commented she had to apologize to so many extras that day as the wings she wore stretched out far enough to practically poke peoples eyes’ out. Anna got a few insights in that episode. First, the itchy wool pants were hard to put up with but Ksenia came right back at her and said that no one else could make them look that good! Anna also gave a shout out to all the men in the world as she joked that taking the ‘man’s role’ in sex was a lot more work than she had realized! In the episode Dyson and the Fae Flora, (Zoie Palmer) have quite the history and Zoie joked about the unique experience of having to act out sex with Dyson; something she hasn’t had to do in her role of Lauren. They all really emphasized the pleasure they took in watching each other stretch their limits in that episode.

Now that they are in the pre-planning stages of Season 5 and about to begin shooting, the entire cast emphasized how hard it is to not spoil when they are on these calls or at conventions. The US schedule for the episodes is considerably off from the Canadian schedule so, in particular, Kris Holden-Reid felt that it really affected the show’s ratings. He urged fans to contact Syfy and see if there was something they could do to show the episodes closer to the Canadian air dates. Since so many of their fans are pretty tech savvy, it was really common for them to get the show through ‘alternative means’. I know personally speaking, I still made a point of watching the Syfy episode to demonstrate to the channel that the show has a lot of loyal viewers.

Those who know me, know I really enjoyed the series, Blood Ties, and seeing Kyle Schmid appear as Raynor aka the Wanderer, really made my day. I got one of the promotional Wanderer cards last year at DragonCon and once it was revealed who the Wanderer was, I thought that they might have planned for it to be Kyle Schmid. Sadly, that was just wish fulfillment on my part but they all offered him glowing reviews on what a pleasure he was to work with. Ksenia mentioned that she had worked with Kyle in something previous about 10 years ago and how it was fantastic to see how much he had really matured as an actor and really was a professional.

Asked about their favorite scenes to shoot this season, we got a wide range of answers. Zoie Palmer brought up her role in the “La Fae Époque” again, citing that as her favorite. Kris Holden-Reid mentioned his favorite scene we haven’t even seen yet, since it is in the finale and he couldn’t say anything about it. Though, Ksenia mentioned she really enjoyed the tango sequence in which she got to dance with both KC Collins and Kris Holden-Reid. She joked that it really gave them a chance to shine and show their twinkle toes. Kris backed her up on how much fun that was to shoot.

The cast clearly gets along great and has a wonderful sense of humor! They spoke about how much fun the recent (at least for the US) “Krampus” episode was to do and when they were asked about guest stars they wished to see on the show, they couldn’t pick out anyone specifically but spun it off to the Avengers making an appearance and suddenly they’d all have super powers and get to design their own costumes! They all got into the spirit of that and it was a real pleasure to listen to their interaction with the members of the press and each other.

If you haven’t watched this show, clearly I’m going to encourage to do so, as I think you’ll be in for a real treat!

Warehouse 13 – it’s back….but not for long

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Category : Entertain Me, Featured, Television

I am a pretty big fan of Warehouse 13, and so glad it is coming back for Season 5 on April 14th on SyFy, but it is the end of the series. I am pretty bummed about this but it really looks good. I have a sneak peak here.

Last season left us at a cliffhanger where I wanted to throw things at my TV…actually I did end up doing that. But it looks like it gives us more of an insight to the new big bad, Paracelsus played wonderfully by Tony Head. We also seem to find out more about Claudia’s role at the Warehouse. Plus we will have all of the fun silly moments that make the show inventive and a joy to watch.

My predictions for this last season, just whatever happens, please please please do not put Pete and Mika together! Sorry shippers, it just happens too much. I think Claudia will grow more into her own, and fulfill her job at the Warehouse before it closes down. Also I really don’t think Professor Sutton played by James Marsters is really gone.

I hope I am right, cannot wait for April 14th!

Zoltán Kodály, Zoltán Korda and Cmdr. McBragg: Gesundheit!

Category : E-vents, Entertain Me, Featured, Music

Cmdr. McBragg Total Television Productions/Gamma Productions

Cmdr. McBragg Total Television Productions/Gamma Productions

- There! The Russian-Hungarian border! Did I ever tell you about the time I …?

- No, Commander, but I …

- The year? 1812. I had just defeated the Emperor Napoleon and rescued Empress Marie-Louise from his clammy, froggy clutches, winning her fair heart in the process. It was dawn, the sun had barely risen over the …

- But, but, Commaaaander …

- Yes! French cavalry all around me! I, all alone with naught but my bare knuckles! Man-to-man, hand-to-hand I fought off the Emperor!

- Yes, Commander. How riveting, Commander. Do continue. ~sigh~

Cheers, kittens! It’s me, Hannah Hart! Now, I imagine there’s a whole bushel of you numnuts whom have no clue who Commander McBragg is. (Note: “I wasn’t born then.” is not, I repeat, not an appropriate response. Where you born when Mozart wrote Die Zauberflöte? Were you born when Thomas Jefferson wrote Notes on Virginia? Were you born when Wilbur and Orville Wright lifted off the Outer Banks? No. Now stop using that sad excuse. It makes you sound obtuse, oblivious and uneducated. This goes out especially to the bank teller in San Clemente whom declared proudly, with the look of a dumb turtle, “I Love Lucy? I don’t think I’ve heard of it. I wasn’t born then.” Idiot.)

Anyhoo, I digress, kids. Our own, kippy San Diego Symphony put on a doozy of a show last week and Yours Truly was there to soak in all the melodic goodness. Like getting Harvey Weinstein stuffed into a wetsuit, the concise one-hour and forty-five minute performance (incl. intermission and its $11 cocktails) was seeping and hissing at the seams with variety.  Whilst shorter than Yours Truly anticipated, it was most likely the perfect duration for a contemporary attention span: longer than a Disney animation, shorter than a Ken Burns documentary. Within these parameters, musical director Jahja Ling prepared for us a healthy feast of the classical.

  • Amuse-bouche of Haydn, Symphony No. 1 in D Major: light and refreshing like a crisp bit of apple, a little baroque violin and flute is the perfect bite-sized smackerel to whet the appetite.
  • First Course of Mozart, Oboe Concerto in C Major: always pleasing, never a bad one in the bunch, Mozart perfectly pairs with the incessant chatter of a know-it-all in the row behind you, schooling his friend on all things Mozart. Despite Mr. This was originally written for piccolo., Miss Sarah Skuster trilled her way into my brain with her lilting oboe solo, her elegant, nude silk-crepe and pewter sequined gown glittering and sparkling under the house lights as her form moved melodiously to Mozart.
  • Intermission: overpriced martinis and a de rigueur, long line for the ladies’ room. For once, the line was not an annoyance but a nice indication that live performance and The Arts might not yet be dead. Considering a notable attendance of the college-aged, to boot, perchance the symphony is not merely the realm of the dottering and the wealthy.
  • Second Course of Martucci, Notturno, Opus 70, No.1:  just as one would expect of a late-19thC. Italian, Giuseppe served up a hearty, family-style serving of boisterous joy. The serving was small, the smallest of the night, but like any good ravioli, all you need is a few bites, and a bit of Prosecco.
  • Dessert by Zoltán Kodály, Suite from “Háry János”: if Gammy Lippenstift -my paternal, Hungarian grandmama- was correct about anything, it was, Nem túl sok vacsoráznak. Helymegtakarítás a desszert! “Don’t fill up on dinner. Save room for dessert!” That we did. This was the longest piece of the night and, this is difficult for a Mozartphile to admit, the grandest piece of the night. (Entschuldigung, Wolfy!) Like Gammy Lippenstift’s rum-soaked Palacsinta (Hungarian crepes), Kodály and his own Cmdr. McBragg treated us to a rich and heavy, satisfying finale.

Before dessert was served, Navroj “Nuvi” Mehta, San Diego Symphony’s pre-concert lecturer and affable M.C., regaled the audience with the plot points, ingredients as it were, of our coming selection. He tells us of the old, Hungarian legend which says a story must be true if preceded by a sneeze. If one pays close attention, one will note the suite begins with one grand, “orchestral sneeze”: a great, instant crescendo which then swan dives six octaves throughout the entire orchestra.

Happily, too, for this old dame, he ever so politely offered a suggestion to the wet-smack, half-portions of the audience, likely the same ones whom never heard of I Love Lucy. As Kodály knows how to string together a tune and segue intriguingly from satire to drama and back again, Nuvi urged patrons to “please hold your applause between movements” and save it for the end. Thank you, Nuvi! What is this? Al fresco, Italian opera?! Hold your applause, jelly beans!

With libretto based on János Garay’s 1843 epic poem The Old Veteran and Napoleon, Háry János is an Hungarian singspiel -a folk opera, more a country musical than traditional opera- first performed in 1926 at The Royal Hungarian Opera House in Budapest. The S.D. Symphony’s offering was a suite of music from this singspiel: a purely instrumental performance of six movements, telling the same tale.

Háry János is an aging veteran of the Austrian Army, a cavalry hussar of the Napoleonic Wars. With little to do in his old age but drink and tell tall tales, he indulges locals with intricately-woven histories of his glory days: foreign foes, Herculean combat and lovelorn ladies left strewn across the land. This night at the smoky bar-tabac, he tells of the time he defeated Napoleon and his entire army, slashing and chopping his way through a thick Frog soup en seul  and rescuing the Empress Marie-Louise, whisking her away to glitzy, waltzy Vienna for a life of Austro-Hungarian riches and coffeehouses.

Soon though, the country lad tires of her needy and high-maintenance, City Girl ways, longing for the simple life back in his wee Hungarian village with his childhood sweetheart, Örsze, presumably buxom and beauteous with hay in her blonde braids, an apron filthy with blueberry stains and a devoted herd of goats following her lovingly across the farm.

The saga and its music float seamlessly between the foolish ways of the French and the flighty nature of coquetry, using brass and piccolos to signify silliness and satire and the deep, dark, dramatic patriotism of our Hungarian hero, employing strings, oboes and a cimbalom to elicit feelings of human heartache, true love and national duty. The story ending with what Kodály himself described as “an ironical march of triumph” as the Emperor of Vienna returns to his sycophantic court; Háry János returns to Örsze and the farm.

Now, back to the Cmdr. McBragg discussion. (See, the topic came full-circle.) If you are not aware of Commander McBragg, as chided previously, I can only assume you are equally unaware of Hungarian director Zoltán Korda and his 1939 film The Four Feathers. If you want to watch it, watch it. Suffice it to say here, it seems pretty clear that C. Aubrey Smith’s portrayal of Gen. Burroughs in the film had to be an inspiration for The World of Commander McBragg. Was Gen. Burroughs inspired by Háry János? Maybe, baby. The timing is certainly correct. Think on that over lunch.

With the current release of DreamWorks’ Mr. Peabody & Sherman, you might be aware of Rocky & Bullwinkle. (Please tell me at least you jelly beans know who Rocky & Bullwinkle are. Moose and squirrel?) Along with Underdog, (the canine adventures of Shoeshine Boy and Polly Purebred) Rocky & Bullwinkle aired cartoon shorts within their show, like Fractured Fairy Tales. The World of Commander McBragg was one of these shorts and today, the name McBragg is still synonymous with braggadocio blowhards. Like him or not, he does spin a ripping good yarn! If you see him at a steampunk party, stick close by … but leave yourself an easy egress.

Interesting story, both Zoltáns, director Korda and composer Kodály, served as Hungarian cavalrymen in their youth … just like Háry János says he did.

Orch dork extraordinaire. Photo: JSDevore

Orch dork extraordinaire. Photo: JSDevore

Now, many of you know my pally, authoress Jennifer Susannah Devore. Turns out she’s quite the Austro-Hungarian fiddler herself. (Not to mention a bit of a Commandess McBragg. Zip it, once in a while, Betty!) With a few, albeit unsuccessful, symphony auditions under her belt, she can still play a mean Irish jig, a mournful Mother Machree and a very pretty rendition of Little House on the Prairie‘s theme song. She is also currently teaching herself The BlaggardsDrunken Sailor.

Nevertheless, her German-crafted, Pfretzchner violin awaits patiently in its leather case for her to pick it up seriously, daily, once again. Terrifying memories of stuffed-shirt auditions and creepy college tutors urging her to “run away with me to Paris where we”ll drink champagne and play violin!” still haunt her. (True story. Ick.) Come on, JennyPop! You owe your parents! How many years of expensive lessons? How many custom-made violins? Maybe a few more nights at the symphony will churn you into gear, you orch dork!

Beaded gowns, pricey cocktails, muted smartphones and the questionable tales of a mustachioed braggart? Sounds like many an evening I spent with Clark Gable. (Did you know that man had a 44″ chest with a 32″ waist? He was so uniquely proportioned only bespoke Brooks Brothers suits could fit that Heavenly physique. Zowie!) An evening of sophisticated, analog entertainment that doesn’t take itself too seriously oft makes for an excellent date.

The moral of this story? If you used to play an instrument, pick it up again. Don’t throw away that hard-earned talent, it’s still in there; muscle memory is wild thing. If you have tales to tell, tell them and do it with pizazz! Hold court and gather a crowd! Wear more silk and sequins; at least pretend you care about your appearance. (Good Heavens, you’re a schlubby generation!) Get over expensive drinks during a night out; it’s still just a ten-spot. Eat more of your grammy’s baked goods and always heed Grammy Rosalyn’s advice: “A story must be true if preceded by a sneeze.” Háry János never started a story without a good one.

“Yeah. Milhouse played the violin for years, until it turned out the vibrations were screwing up his bones.”

-Kirk VanHouten, The Simpsons

Achoo!

Gesundheit!

Ah, yes. Quite.

@JennyPopNet

*Une mille mercis to SD Symphony’s concertmaster Jeff Thayer, for spurring me on to play my violin again! Mesmerizing bow-hand, Sir!

Hannah’s other fave places to haunt online?

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

Inside Marvel Studios: Assembling a Universe

Category : Comics, Entertain Me, Featured, Movies, Television

Tonight Marvel Studios is taking fans inside the studio for a closer look at their cinematic universe which has attained box office success and has pop culture icons back on the big screen.

 

Courtesy of ABC

Courtesy of ABC

Marvel has seen unprecedented success, reminding comic fans why we hold characters such as Iron Man and Captain America in such high regard, as well as introducing a whole new wave of fans to these larger than life icons. Of course, Iron Man has played a big part in the success of Marvel Studios with three films to his credit and The Avengers brought their universe together and provided a spectacle on screen for audiences. Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been proving they can also make it work on the small screen. Marvel Studios is looking to keep up their streak with Captain America: The Winter Soldier in theaters next month.

 

It is difficult to pinpoint the recipe for the overwhelming success Marvel Studios has achieved; whether due to complex character development, well-developed story-lines, or good old fashioned action. In the documentary, Marvel Studios: Assembling A Universe, the studio gives the audience a look at the story behind the studio, exclusive interviews and behind the scenes footage from the Marvel films with contributions from celebrity fans and pop culture icons.

 

Delve into the Marvel Universe tonight, March 18th at 8/7pm C on ABC. Catch a sneak peek with the video below, courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

Syfy Returning to Space with the New Series Ascension

Category : Entertain Me, Featured, Television

Syfy President Dave Howe announced development of a new drama series. In an effort to capture the success of other original dramas, Syfy has greenlit the six hour mini-series, Ascension. Created and written by Philip Levens (Smallville), the series is putting a wonder team in place to head the production. Jason Blum (Paranormal Activity, The Purge) and Mark Stern are taking the reigns as Executive Producers in addition to Ivan Fecan, Tim Gamble and Brett Burlock for Sea To Sky Studios. Levens will remain on board as Executive Producer and Showrunner. The series will be a joint venture with Universal Cable Productions and Lionsgate Television co-financing and distributing.

Courtesy of NBC Universal

Ascension is a return to space travel for the cable network as they attempt to regain a position in the “must see tv” category, such as Syfy experience with Battlestar Galactica. Howe expanded,

 

“Syfy is more committed than ever to bringing life epic event television. We have a rich history in this arena, from Steven Spielberg’s ‘Taken’ to the highly acclaimed mini that launched the ‘Battlestar Galactica’ series, to reimagined take on classic tales such as ‘Alice’ and ‘Tin Man.’ In keeping with that grand tradition, we are delighted to bring this thrilling, provocative and intelligent event to our fans later this year.”

The series takes place in a present day timeline to follow a crew of hundreds which departed earth in 1963 as part of a covert mission into space with hopes of populating a new world. Fifty years into their mission, a murder has the passengers wondering what the real mission is. Ascension is scheduled to premier in November 2014 and air through December.

Nerd Night Out: Nerdcore at Comicazi – WarRock & Tribe One

Category : E-vents, Entertain Me, Featured, Music

How do you spend Friday night? If you were one of the lucky ones last Friday, you were taking in a Nerdcore show.

Graphic Credit: Comicazi

Graphic Credit: Comicazi

Comicazi, a comic shop located in Somerville, MA, played host to Adam WarRock and Tribe One last Friday. While comics are their stock-in-trade, Comicazi is a pop culture emporium which often hosts events such as game tournaments, book clubs, and comedy nights. It was no surprise to find the back room full of nerds looking for a good time.

After braving hours of Boston traffic, Adam WarRock and Tribe One greeted the crowd at Comicazi and proceeded to entertain without delay.

Graphic Credit: Malibu Shark Attack

Graphic Credit: Malibu Shark Attack

Tribe One took the stage first and delighted the room with classic tracks, as well as selected tracks from his latest album as par of the two man team known as Malibu Shark Attack. Crowds will enjoy the new sounds from Malibu Shark Attack as Tribe One combines his flow with eclectic variations. The offerings on the self-titled Malibu Shark Attack may not sound like the hip hop you are used to; however, the variety is refreshing and you will be shouting “Malibu Shark Attack” before you know it.

For more about Tribe One, check his website, like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter at @TribeOneWon.

 

Graphic Credit: Adam WarRock

Graphic Credit: Adam WarRock

WarRock is celebrating the release of his latest album, The Middle of Nowhere, which was released in November 2013. During the show, he explained how important it was to play comic shops whenever possible on this tour, explaining some of them (Comicazi among them) were the first venues to give him an opportunity to perform and reach out to build his audience. Is there any better backdrop for his nerdy lyrics which every comic geek and gamer can connect with?

For more about Adam WarRock, visit his website, like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter at @eugewarrock

 

The music these men create is so much more than nerdy anthems and parody ditties. They both have their serious moments and use the opportunity music allows them to spread a message and make audiences think. It is embodied by tracks like “Different” from Tribe One’s album, titled Dirty South Swamp Thing, which attempts to encourage others to appreciate their differences and believe in their potential. While WarRock takes on the power of words when used to hurt others and how we can rise above.

Interested in seeing a live show? There’s still time. WarRock & Tribe One continue The Middle of Nowhere Tour on the East Coast through the middle of February before travelling around the United States. Check the website for tour dates and details.

Graphic Credit: Adam WarRock

Graphic Credit: Adam WarRock

So Many Monkeys: SyFy Original Series “Helix”

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Category : Candid Conversations, Entertain Me, Featured, Reviews, Television

No monkeys here. Too many monkeys here. Is that a monkey? Frozen monkey field. These are not the monkeys you’re looking for. Look, we’ve been at this over an hour and still no monkeys.

Helix, SyFy’s newest original series, is an experiment in extremes: viral containment, climate, human isolation and monkeys. Set in a cutting-edge research facility in the Arctic, Helix could easily be a next-generation, X-Files spin-off, picking up after any one of the Black Oil Mythology episodes, or even Scully and Mulder’s Alaskan exploits in “Ice” (S1e7).

It is safe to say, should you be an X-Phile, you will once again enjoy the glacial-blue light of Friday night, sci-fi-thriller TV. So, grab some snacks, zip up your Snuggy and leave a hand free; you’ll need it for your chocolate-covered frozen bananas and a handily-placed stun baton. It’s Helix time.

It makes sense. Steven Maeda (X-FilesLost) serves as Helix executive producer alongside Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek: TNG ) and Lynda Obst (Contact, The Fisher King), as well as Jeffrey Reiner (Friday Night Lights, Trauma) and Brad Turner (24, Hawaii Five-O), both of whom direct episodes: “Pilot” (S1e1) and “Vector” (S1e2), respectively. “274″ (S1e3) is directed by Steven A. Adelson (Haven, Sanctuary).

Psychologists suggest the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour. Naturally, Helix is bound to exhibit influence from so many involved, experienced and august, above-the-line raconteurs; Maeda’s past simply shines through the brightest, at least thus far in the series. SyFy tenderfoot and Helix creator/writer/co-executive producer Cameron Porsandeh finds himself very fortunate in his professional company.

Like many a thriller, our secretive, U.S. government provides unwitting and reluctant heroes plucked from deep within federal cubicle farms. This time, it’s the CDC; to boot, the protags, de rigueur, have a bevy of personal and interpersonal issues compiling their newly assumed duties. All this makes working in a lockdown facility full of sharp, shiny, metal instruments, and possibly run amok with infected monkeys, situated on an merciless, frozen tundra, if one could escape, extra fun.

Shot on-location in Montréal, Québec, including on a sound stage dubbed “The Freezer”, Helix effectively presents viable, unsettling, virtual feelings of claustrophobia and agoraphobia. Add what Maeda calls “an invisible villain”, and you’ve got fear and panic factory-sealed in an icy gift box.

“You can’t touch it. You can’t taste it. But it’s there,” Maeda added in a SyFy press call with Helix actress Kyra Zagorsky (Smallville, Soldiers of the Apocalypse) who plays the emotionally severe yet painfully professional Dr. Julia Walker.

Zagorsky concurred about the fictional virus:

  • This virus … it’s something that they’ve never seen and that, in itself, is quite frightening in a story because this is something that happens all the time, a real life epidemic scare, you know. I mean, I think there was just a couple reported cases this last week in Vancouver of some deaths of people passed away with H1N1. You know, it’s something that’s really out there for people.

At the Ilaria Corporation high-tech research facility, Arctic Biosystems, the true menace is neither simian nor even meteorological in form; although the agoraphobic nature of nothing but white death for leagues and leagues does present itself as its own, haranguing character.

Banking on mankind’s truest fears, like recurrences of the Black Death, Spanish Flu, Chernobyl and even the still-worrisome Fukushima Daiichi fallout, Helix writers, and actors, understand they are straddling a very fine line between fiction and reality. Audiences like to be scared by the likes of Paranormal Activity and Fire in the Sky because it feeds some primal need for adrenaline in our luxurious, SUV seat-heater, caramel double-latte, fingerless cashmere iPad-gloves, modern world. Audiences know ghosts and aliens won’t actually harm them, mostly. Yet, a mysterious illness, emerging out of nowhere, killing indiscriminately and painfully at a near 100% mortality rate whilst fueling its autonomous need to propagate? That’s not just terrifying, it’s possible.

Interviewing Helix actors Catherine Lemieux (Blue Violin, White House Down), who plays Dr. Doreen Boyle with a hard realism, and Mark Ghanimé (Soldiers of the Apocalypse, Emily Owens, M.D.), who brings a confident approachability to the role of Major Sergio Balleseros, I was afforded an opportunity to chat with them about the story devices of fear and hope, human nature and dealing with mankind’s paramount fear of the unknown.

  • Catherine Lemieux:   Wow. Wow. I think that that’s just a reflection of life really like life is a balance of those two things in a sense of fear and hope through that and of conquering the fears that we get. So I think that’s kind of like a true reflection, the show kind of reflects the balance of life that we all try to achieve. And we all have fears and we all have to face them in that sense. So it’s a very, very human experience in that. It also being a Sci-fi experience and having this disease be completely unknown and completely from out of this world maybe, who knows.
  • Mark Ghanimé:    Exactly what Catherine says, and also the fact that if you look at some of the characters as we develop the story in the season some of the infected – the people that get infected in the base there is – there is the fear and the hope that these people from the CDC can help them. And, I mean, that kind of – it’s a very important story line on the secondary and the guest star characters in the show. A lot of times you don’t see too too much of the fear and the hope on the surface of the hero characters. But, we have that support from the guest stars on our show. You really get to see what the true feelings are of these people in the space. And I think, yeah, it is exactly human nature.

Does Helix face a difficulty down the line, putting a fictive slant on such a sobering subject? Mark Ghanimé espoused the following:

  • We’ve echoed this a lot on our previous interviews. The fact that what we’re doing in this show is not fantastical, is not supernatural, is not beyond the reach of the real world I think that in itself lends a built-in fear in that it can happen. You look outside your door and those things can occur. And I think that itself is enough to put the fear of God into people. Yeah, for lack of a better term.

Catherine continued with the idea of character-identification, linking that sympathetic emotion of fear between actor and viewer.

  • The possibility, I think, of it – the possibility of any situation that’s on television or on film or what have you is definitely the link with the audience in that sense. If an audience member can identify and see themselves in this problem that these characters are having then you really do have a connection.

“The primary goal,” directs the CDC’s head of Special Pathogens, Dr. Alan Farragut, played sternly by Billy Campbell (The O.C., The 4400) “identify the pathogen.” Narvik is the mystery pathogen. Narvik is its name, killier black goo is its game. Whether you get strain-A or -B is when the game comes afoot and that is up to fate, and the writers: Cameron Porsandeh (Helix), Misha Green (Heroes, Sons of Anarchy), Keith Huff (House of Cards, Mad Men) and Ronald D. Moore (Caprica, Star Trek: First Contact). Moreover, climate conditions at Arctic Biosystems are so heinous they wreak havoc on helicopter mechanisms, making it futile to depend on, or even hope for, outside help, thus adding desperation and panic to fundamental fear and those oh-so-gelled, previous feelings of claustrophobia and agoraphobia everyone is experiencing, including the pathos-brimming rats and monkeys.

Fair warning to the squeamish and the animal-empathetic. Animal lovers might spend a good deal of each show watching through closed hands. Lab rats and monkeys make regular appearances in various stages of distress and infection. SFX, MUA, CGI and robotics they might be; still, the visuals are disturbing and one wonders how much animal suffering some viewers will stomach before switching over to a much-needed dose of happy and silly via Archer or Bob’s Burgers on Netflix? It would be funny if the animal testing was conducted at Springfield’s “Screaming Monkey Medical Research Facility”, as seen on The Simpsons episode “HOMR” (S12e9). Alas, it is not. Still, Catherine Lemieux assuaged the concern about the animals on-set, assuring viewers everyone is well-cared for, without a doubt.

  • I just wanted to point out that we also had a vet on set. And she was great. She’s somebody that I could use a total resource. Her name was (Ev) and I don’t know her last name. but I considered that such a gift from production to be able to speak to somebody who actually is a veterinarian and who deals with that on a day to day basis. So that was really, really a great help.

Do your contact make you wish you were dead?

At the end of the interview, I asked both Lemieux and Ghanimé about an ad for Ilaria’s Infinity contact lenses. How does it link to the untenable situation at Arctic Biosystems. The query was originally posited by, of all people, a Chair of Ophthalmology at U.C. Davis. The good doctor and I wondered if it could have something to do with the inhuman, silver eyes of Dr. Hatake (played astringently by Hiroyuki Sanada). The question was responded to with an immediate aaahhs and hmmms; one could almost hear them shifting in their seats as they pondered my question. All to no effect, though; Ghanimé’s answer was curt.

  • I have a huge answer. It’s a juicy one. Are you ready for this? No comment. We cannot talk about that … said with all humor of course.

New episodes of Helix air on SyFy, Fridays @10p/9c

Follow @JennyPopNet   #Helix

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

Sharknado & Syfy Original Movies: Panel with Syfy Executive VP, Tom Vitale

Category : Arisia, Conventions, E-vents, Entertain Me, Featured, Movies, Television

It takes a certain kind of fan to enjoy Syfy Original Movies. The appeal of these films vary from person to person; whether it stems from an appreciation of the tongue-in-cheek nature these films embrace, to fans supporting actors they enjoy, to people who enjoy sharing these movies with a group of friends in a viewing party. Certainly, a major attribute to their success is the professionalism and earnestness each member of the cast and crew brings to each film. It is the ability to sell the story and action which allows these films to capture the magic of the B movie genre.

 

 
I am a self-professed fan of the Syfy Original Movie. Those readers among you who have seen me at a convention, know I can often be found behind the panelist table discussing these movies. My time at Arisia this year was no different when I had the opportunity to sit alongside Tom Vitale, Executive Vice President of Programming  & Original Movies for Syfy and Chiller. Along with my fellow panelists Randee Dawn, Bob “MovieBob” Chipman and Michael McAfee, we discussed the origin of Syfy original movies, the productions and the future of these films.

 

Syfy original movies take approximately 14 months to produce, from concept to wrap. In most instances, Syfy assumes about half of the production costs, splitting them with the production studio. While in their heyday, Syfy was producing two movies per month, audiences have no doubt noticed a decline in new titles. The network feels the market has become over-saturated, leading to the decision to cut back on production. The next original movie is slated to air in April. The schedule will then return with some regularity. Last year, Syfy made the decision to move original movies from their long held Saturday night time slot to Thursday night. This move seems to work in their favor and will likely remain the time slot for the foreseeable future. However, with the lack of fierce programming competition in the summer, Syfy may take advantage with marathons of previously aired original movies.

 

After-market distribution of original movies is one aspect where consistency is elusive. Licensing can be convoluted and governed by producing rights, filming location, as well as international sales and DVD release windows. This explains why some movies do not make it to DVD or will not be available through streaming sources, such as Syfy’s website, Netflix, Hulu or Amazon.

 

Sharknado has been the greatest success Syfy has experienced with an original movie. The title was able to capitalize on it’s success with a theatrical release when Fathom Events approached the network to create a special one-night only midnight screening across the country. Syfy does field requests for original movie screenings for film festivals and large fan events, recognizing these films are often better viewed with a crowd.

 

With regard to the types of films represented in the stable of original movies, there is an inherent pull towards creature features. Whether it is a romantic nostalgia for the Creature Double Feature many fans remember, or the idea of facing an uncontrollable beast of nature is unknown. Undoubtedly, every sub-genre gets its day, depending on the mood of audiences – initially it may have been aliens or natural disasters, tomorrow it may be robotic animals. The interests of the audience dictate which foes will see the small screen.

 

Which Syfy Original Movies have you enjoyed? What about these films paying homage to the B movie genre appeals to you?

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

2

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

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

1

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.

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