Monday, June 30, 2008

Geek Update

With this receipt from my favorite comic book store in Seattle, Zanadu, I am officially caught up on the 8th season of Buffy. What I love about season 8 is how cinematic it is. The authors and artists are doing such an incredible job of expanding the Buffyverse and giving its characters the ability to go anywhere and do anything-things that would not have been possible during the television series. At first, I was a little uneasy with how different the world is from what we are so familiar with on the show itself-it was a bit jarring for me to see the advancements in technology and the change of locale. It has been growing on me with every new "episode," and I realize that the world we see in season 8 is a world we only got a tease of in the last episode of the series. It is certainly a bigger world, a more colorful world and we are witnesses to the effects of the broadening power of the Slayer. Season 8, for me, is a clear justification of Xander and Willow's exchange at the end of "Chosen."

We saved the world.
We changed the world. I can feel them, Buffy. All over.

Issue number 16 of the series comes out this week!#16 marks the beginning of a four-issue story-arc prominently featuring a Buffy/Fray crossover. I still have not read "Fray", Whedon's comic book about a future Slayer named Melaka Fray. I'll have to pick up a copy before I read this next installment of season 8.

The official description reads:

"On a hot tip, Buffy and Willow head to Manhattan hoping to unlock the secrets of Buffy's mysterious scythe, but something goes terribly awry when Buffy suddenly finds herself transported to an unknown world, and into the path of future Slayer Fray. Buffy creator Joss Whedon teams with his Fray co-creator Karl Moline in "Time of Your Life." Jo Chen and Georges Jeanty join the team for covers. Available July 02, 2008"

In other Joss Whedon news, the official trailer for his upcoming, three-episode web musical series, "Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog" went live over on the show's website over the weekend. The show stars Neil Patrick Harris as the titular super-villain and Nathan Fillion as his arch-nemesis. Also, speaking of slayers, the female lead, Felicia Day, had a recurring role as a potential named Vi in season 7 of "Buffy" Joss Whedon has written a great open letter to his fans-his Master Plan-about how the release of the show will work. The first episode will be available on the aforementioned website starting on July 15th, the second on July 17th, and the third on July 19th. All three episodes will be available online until the 20th. At that point, they will be available for a fee before being released on DVD. From what Whedon has said about the show and the DVD, I cannot wait to see what all he has up his sleeve!

Also, a close friend of mine bought me this t-shirt from the NBC/Universal store while he was in New York a couple weeks ago.

I love it! I wore it last week when I introduced my dad to "Battlestar"-we've gotten through just the miniseries so far. The back of the shirt has both the Sci-Fi Channel and "Battlestar Galactica" logos. It fits well too, which is always important.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Wanted: Wall-E

I just found this creative little photoshop job over at the blog Film Experience:

Wall-E is getting stupendous reviews and the sound designer is the very same guy-Ben Burtt-who has been responsible for sound design on all things Star Wars. He has been quoted as saying if R2-D2 had his own movie, Wall-E would be the closest thing to it. Plus, I don't know how they got a robot to look so damn cute, but I want to see it and the film is playing at the amazing Cinerama just down the street.

Wanted was directed by the same person who directed the popular, flashy Russian thrillers of the past few years, Nightwatch and its follow-up, Vampire-guns-things-blowing-up film, Daywatch, Timur Bekmambetov. I liked both of those films well enough and Wanted doesn't look like a completely dumbed-down high-octane thriller, so I do want to check it out as well on the big screen.

Care to join?

"Did I Fall Asleep?"

Echo: Did I fall asleep?
Topher: For a little while...

Based on the little teaser in the last post, I think a “Dollhouse” post is in order. I certainly don’t think it’s too early to start spreading the news about Joss Whedon’s new show set to premiere as a mid-season show beginning in January 2009.

Earlier this June, I submitted my senior thesis which was entitled “New Lines: The Fan and Textual Poaching in the Work of Joss Whedon,” a version of which I was privileged to be able to present at the recent Slayage Conference 3 in Arkadelphia, AR. The following section occurs in the conclusion of my paper:

New Echoes

Building on the success generated by "Buffy," "Angel" and "Firefly," Whedon is on track to once again sit in the creator’s chair and bring a new universe into being with the development of a new television series set to premiere in January on Fox called "Dollhouse." To the delight of fans, the Fox network, formerly a target of much fan derision for its cancellation of Firefly, has green lighted thirteen episodes. As of April, production on "Dollhouse" had already begun. The pilot episode is completed and the trailer has just hit the Internet. Excitement builds as fans wonder what kind of world Whedon will offer them. As an expansion of the Whedonverse, the Dollverse will probably seem a bit familiar. The show’s description already contains recognizable elements—horror and science fiction tropes as well as echoes of Whedon’s own creations.

In a recent conversation between the Sci-Fi Channel, and Whedon the interviewer comments, “People will compare this show to loads of other things...” Whedon responds in his typical candid fashion, “People would come to me with ‘It’s just like...It’s just like...It’s just like’ I always feel a little guilty, if you have enough of those, I feel that’s what makes it original” (Spelling). These words seem to encompass what textual poaching is all about. "Dollhouse" reunites Whedon with "Buffy" alum, Eliza Dushku. Dushku plays a member of a team of agents programmed to accomplish certain assignments, who then have their memory wiped at the completion of these missions. Dushku’s character begins to remember what she should not. Her character is appropriately named Echo—a conscious nod to the revisionist nature that such a premise denotes as well as a fitting term for Whedon’s own creative process.

*End Passage*

Naturally, due to the cancellation of Firefly, there are already “Save Dollhouse Campaigns” across the internet, pre-empting any possible negative action by Fox. However, I agree with this article in that it would seem hype and fan-promotion in general would probably do more good in the long run. Whedon has voiced his newfound faith-no pun intended-in Fox; apparently they’ve undergone an administration change. In addition, it seems clear that Fox is already very confident with the series, foregoing a pilot episode in exchange for a beautiful, feng shui-inspired, multi-million dollar set designed by “Buffy” and “Angel” production designer, Stuart Blatt. And as I already mentioned, thirteen episodes are already in the works. The first trailer for the series was released several weeks ago.

I’m definitely excited about the series, and even though I know a number of Whedon fans would see anything he produced, even if it involved a guy on a park bench reading a newspaper as I once heard, “Dollhouse” really does show great promise and I look forward to the promotional campaigns that are yet to come!

Fellow blogger and author of two of the best guides on “Buffy” and “Angel,” Nikki Stafford, also has a couple of posts relating to the show that are worth checking out.

Echo: Did I fall asleep?
Topher: For a little while...

“The Replacements”: A Brief Chronicle of Saturday Morning Cartoons

I still like Saturday morning cartoons and some other generally-kid-centric-shows that air during that time, but the selection of really good cartoons, especially on all of the four broadcast channels I receive via airwaves, has been reduced significantly since the late 80s, early 90s when I used to get up at the crack of dawn. My family used to go skiing every Saturday morning at
Stevens Pass so my friends would usually stay over and we’d get up early so that we could catch whatever was on ABC at 6:30 in the morning before hitting the slopes.

Two of the highlights were "Land of the Lost" (the remake) and "Bump in the Night," a program filmed using claymation from the mid 90s. If you have not seen either, especially the latter, you must check them out. "Bump in the Night" aired in short segments between the more popular cartoons in 1994 and 1995. Upon revisiting this vivid childhood memory via YouTube, I have come to the conclusion that it is probably one of the more interesting/disturbing aspects of American youth culture over the last two decades.

In this particular episode, Mr. Squishington consumes a troubling item in the bedroom where the show takes place.

I seriously doubt that ABC or any other station would air this program today! I remember having a similar reaction to re-watching "Pee-Wee's Playhouse"-albeit more on the disturbing-definitely-not-child-friendly end of things-a couple years ago. I do wish they would release "Bump in the Night" on DVD, because it would make for great background programming at a party. That being said, television today is not without its kid and adult-friendly Saturday morning shows. My favorite of the moment is one that I began watching when my Saturday work schedule involved not having to be at work until 11:00AM or even Noon. I give you the opening segment of The Disney Channel's "The Replacements."

Building on a very simple plot device-the kids are able to call Fleemco at any time in order to solve problems or make their life more interesting by the replacement of any individual that they come across-the show is virtually limitless in its narrative possibilities (Joss Whedon's upcoming television series, "Dollhouse" anyone?). All in all, “The Replacements” is a very clever show that appropriates from a variety of sources. The design of C.A.R. is styled after the Mach 5 of the “Speed Racer” franchise, but obviously the character is also a direct reference to K.I.T.T. from “Knight Rider” as it speaks and performs a number of tricks with a multitude of cool devices. The writing is sharp and witty and of the two main characters, the siblings Todd and Riley, Todd is actually voiced by Nancy Cartwright, who has been doing the voice of Bart Simpson and a number of other characters on “The Simpsons” for who knows how many years. "The Replacements" is one of those shows that successfully caters to multiple audiences; on the surface, it aims for the 8-14 demographic but manages to engage any adults that might be in the room while the show is on. I imagine this is a way for the staff of these shows to entertain and continually challenge themselves as well.

My continued interest in this show is one that I share with my dear co-worker and fellow visual culture enthusiast KJ. The more I see the show, the more I see its merits and think to myself that were I ever involved in a kid's show, this would be the kind of show I’d love to do.

Friday, June 27, 2008

So Fierce

Last night I continued my "Introduction to Buffy" spree with my friend Keith-our most recent session had us watching "I, Robot...You, Jane." Yeah. and "The Puppet Show" as we are in the middle of Season 1.

I came home around 10:30 and was about to call it a night when my friend Kent texted me about a certain celebrity he was with at a hip and happening local bar. I immediately got my shoes back on and made the short jaunt over to where they were hanging out together. The place was absolutely crowded-pretty men and boys and a few women for good measure filled the place as usual-but I saw my friend standing in the middle of the bar with his trademark suit on. He was next to a group of people hovered over the shortest-but most fierce-guy in the entire bar. Kent introduced me to the fabulosity that is this man. Christian Siriano, of Project Runway fame and the winner of the most recent incarnation of the show, Season 4. The second Kent mentioned I was his "BFF" Christian gave me a hug and pecked me on each cheek. Then we complemented each other on our outfits, you know, like you do with all the fashion greats. I'm pretty sure he was wearing almost the exact same outfit as this picture, but what you can't see here is the embroidery on his shirt which was really awesome.

Christian was in town yesterday for a benefit-it being pride weekend and all-and my friend Kent is one of the reporters for an up-and-coming online magazine called My City Chic. Kent often does interviews with a bunch of designers at various events around the city-and he'll fit you with a great outfit too. All in all, Christian was so nice and such a pleasure to talk with-it's too bad he is not able to stick around for the rest of the pride festivities this weekend. Thanks to Kent for the introduction!

Thursday, June 26, 2008


I must open this post by saying that I never read comic books on a regular basis until about a year ago beginning with the new Star Wars comic book, multi-media phenomenon called Star Wars: Legacy. The story is set about 100 years in the future from where the current novels are in the whole Star Wars timeline. That comic follows the exploits of a rogue Jedi named Cade Skywalker who continues to struggle with his destiny-as a Skywalker, he's got a lot behind him to live up to and also to fight against. It is unknown how exactly he is descended from the Skywalker line, but what matters most is that he carries the name and the burden that comes with. In any case, when I was in elementary school most of my friends and myself included were fairly bookish and not at all comic-bookish.

When my (healthy) obsession with Buffy began, I immediately picked up the first story arc of the Season 8 continued in comic book form-The Long Way Home-and I have been voraciously reading the rest of the issues as they come out on newstands, or rather, as they are slipped under my door by the kind mail-man.

Prompting this particular post was my recent reference to the mutant Iceman from the X-Men comics, movies, etc. I was looking for this image to include but I could not remember the exact number of the issue and countless searches on Google still didn't reveal what I was looking for. So, I came home and checked.

I picked up X-Men #190 just after I moved into my new apartment in August 2006 down at Golden Age Collectables in Pike Place Market just a few minutes walk from my house. As with the aforementioned Buffy Tarot Deck I was far more drawn to the artwork than whatever content it may contain. I have since learned that this issue-honestly I didn't even read it before putting it on my wall-includes the storyline "Supernovas," that "Northstar and Aurora kicked ass completely and utterly" and that Bobby Drake might be an Omega level mutant. What exactly that means, I don't know-although I think Jean Grey and Professor X are also Omega level. Maybe I am more of a comic book geek than I perceive myself. Regardless, I absolutely love the layout of this cover and the way Iceman's body is melting into the X-Men title at the bottom of the page. So cool and kinda sexy. Not to mention I've always had a thing for Iceman. I bought the issue and promptly had it framed with a matte board surrounding the comic that picks up on the turquoise in the drawing.

Still, every now and then I'll grab another comic just for the amazing artwork on the cover-I think I'll frame the third issue of Buffy Season 8 next.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

"This is a very upsetting story."

Willow: Tell me a story.
Tara: Okay. Once upon a time, there was, um... a kitty. She was very little, and she was all alone, and nobody wanted her.
Willow: This is a very upsetting story.
("Family" 5.6)

This is also a very upsetting story.

Only a few short months after Dark Horse Comics announced the release of a Buffy-themed Tarot deck, the comic book giant has informed its loyal clientele that "due to circumstances beyond our control" "Dark Horse will not be producing the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" Tarot Deck". What?!

I have never been into the whole Tarot Card or Ouija board phenomenon-speaking of which there is a Buffy-themed Ouija board based on the episode "Conversations with Dead People" though I have little interest in that piece of licensed merchandise-but with this Tarot deck, the little art that I have seen from the collection is beautiful. The cards that I have included here represent about half of the pre-released images from the set. A quick Google search on "Buffy tarot" will garner a number of other great cards including ones featuring the First Slayer, the High Tower and Death. With the Buffy Tarot Deck there was also to be a 70-page booklet with an entire backstory as to how this deck would have been used within the Buffyverse, perhaps a long-lost relic of the Slayer line that had been passed down through the ages. Willow might even have used it somewhere along her quest to become a more powerful witch or to help out the Scooby gang in some fashion.

My memory is a little shaky in regards to this little tidbit, but it should be noted that Tara does use a Thoth Deck at one point and I believe Drusilla uses an actual Tarot Deck a couple times in Season 2-correct me if I'm wrong.

I was so excited about this deck! I had envisioned buying a deck (or two) and framing the whole set, thereby making a really cool piece of art to have in my apartment. I had already pre-ordered a deck through Things from Another World and I was all but counting the days until they were supposed to be released. I am still holding out that maybe Dark Horse just meant that they would not be able to produce them. Maybe some other company just has more legal leverage and they'll announce its resurrection sometime soon on some other website. *Crossing fingers*

The only other visual association I really have with Tarot Cards comes from a scene filled with lots of dark humour in Peter Jackson's incredible, wit-filled, pre-Lord of the Rings gore-fest, Braindead or Dead-Alive as it is more commonly known in the United States.

Needless to say, to have Dark Horse cancel the one really-nerdy-collectible-fun-type-licensed-Buffy-product that I had been looking forward to purchasing-"Hey Dark Horse, money is in my hand...your loss!"-was really a letdown this morning. At least their production of Season 8 is still going strong. What else can I buy?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Querying the Buffy Queer-y

I am finally getting around to posting on some of my fantastic experiences and intellectual joyrides from Slayage 3: Conference on the Whedonverses which took place a couple weeks ago in good ol' Arkadelphia, Arkansas. I still want to write about some of my best moments at the conference, though so far, my musings after the fact, have been prompted by articles about Buffy that I've stumbled on since amidst the interwebs.

This post is in part, in honor of the beginning of Pride Season-I love that it happens during summer-and what better way to celebrate or illuminate any discourse than to tie it in to Buffy? One particular article is probably old news to some people as it was published in April of last year, but I found "What makes Buffy a gay icon?" on to be a worthwhile pop culture article on the queer themes addressed in Buffy. Some of the talkbacks contain some interesting commentary as well.

In the same session as I mentioned in my last post, Sarah Thomas from the University of Nebraska , the only other undergraduate-though I was and still am, to an extent at one of these in between undergraduate/grad students since I just finished a four year degree-presented a paper called "'This is a witch symbol': Willow's Queer Identity." Sarah went in to how Willow's development of her witchcraft was a metaphor for queer identity, but what was even more interesting was her assertion regarding Buffy's closeted identity as a Slayer.

Buffy's confession to her mother during the episode "Becoming, Part Two", reminded me (as I saw it after the following) of Bobby Drake's own "coming out" as the mutant, Iceman in X2, which stands as an even more heavy handed approach to broaching the issue of queer identities-stay tuned for an upcoming post on the comic book series, Ultimate X-Men and its own treatment of gay characters and themes.

Buffy's masqued "coming out" is, of course, a matter that is further complicated by the events that take place in Season 8 of Buffy. *Spoiler Alert* Buffy wakes up in bed with a "naked Asian girl"-as Andrew puts it-a fellow Slayer named Satsu *End Spoiler*. The full implications of this happening have not yet been fully realized of course, as Season 8 continues onward, but the development is certainly stirring.

The Philosophy of Hair

As I was perusing Whedonesque the other day, like you do, I came across an amusing little piece on the narrative implications of Buffy's hair throughout all seven seasons of Buffy. It's a quick read.

I immediately recalled the paper presented at Slayage Conference 3 at Henderson State University by Jane Martin of the University of Saint Francis. Her paper was titled, "The Dark Redhead: Willow and Her Fury, or ‘Are you kidding. She’s like Dark Phoenix up there.’" Jane's paper came under the heading "Willow," the last session of the day on Saturday June 7th. How could I not attend a session focusing explicitly on Willow? As with many other sessions during the conference, mine included, the other presenter(s) did not show up, which provided for ample discussion time, but more than a few of the papers were on topics I would have been interested in hearing more about. Jane's fellow speaker would have been Lisa M. Vetere from Monmouth University. Her paper had a great title: “The Rage of Willow: A Kleinian Perspective on Witchcraft Performances.”

Jane's paper was very well constructed and well argued. I took loads of notes on this one and others. Jane had a great presentation with plenty of pictures and a lively style of speech. I particularly remember Jane's comments on how the decision to alter Willow's hair color to black when she became Dark Willow actually undermined the usual associations we have with the "fiery redheads" from an analytic perspective, an association never lost within the progression of the X-Men's Jean Grey character becoming one with the Pheonix entity as she maintains her red locks throughout her transformation to the Dark Pheonix. Willow's change to a "brunette" was most likely brought on as a way of visual shorthand, immediately associating darkness/black with evil.

After Jane's talk I remember Ryan and I had a brief discussion about the merits of a paper on Sarah Michelle Gellar's hair transformation throughout the series. I recall an interview or article explaining how SMG was the one who prompted her drastic haircut in the 6th series that was written into the narrative of the episode, "Gone" a point further discussed in the hair article mentioned above. It looks like someone has beat us to it, Ryan! Although, I'm sure a more thorough investigation of the phenomenon, Willow and Buffy included, is still in order...

Monday, June 23, 2008

Happy Birthday, Joss!

Today is a very monumental it is the birthday of our benevolent master.

No, not that master.

This one.

Happy Birthday, Joss!

Thanks for everything and here's to at least another 44 years of creative genius!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Big River

Way back in my freshman year of college, I took an Acting 101 class as a kickstart to my double major of Theatre and English at Seattle Pacific University. The class was taught by the incredible Karen Lund. The first day of the class we went around the room in a circle telling everyone why we were in the class. When it came around to me, I stated that I was a) a Theatre major and it was obviously a requirement-that whole "acting" thing involved in Theatre and b) one of my career aims was to become a professional dramaturg. Karen replied to my admission: "Oh good! I'll hook you up!" with a glint in her eye. My interests have evolved slightly with time, but role of the dramaturg is an important one, whether for theatre or film and I hope that in the future my talents in this field can be broadened and used in a full-time capacity, whether in film or television.

About a year and a half later I took Karen up on her offer and emailed her asking what she might have in mind and firstly, if she remembered me. She absolutely did and after an interview with one of her associates I was hired to do research, create actor's packets, write dramaturg notes, make the lobby display as a contracted dramaturg for Taproot Theatre Company just north of downtown Seattle.

This Spring marks my third season with Taproot Theatre as dramaturg for hire. Our upcoming production of the musical, Big River based on The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, is the fourth production I have been intimately involved with there. I've worked previously on It's a Wonderful Life, Seven Keys to Baldpate and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Karen is an amazing director to work for. She is constantly surprising me with her various exploits in theatre as well as the television world. She is on a first name basis with James Burrows and has thus guest directed several episodes of Will & Grace. She has worked on several new pilots including one with Nathan Fillion, who played the evil priest, Caleb, in the seventh season of Buffy as well as our favorite captain of a Firefly-class starship in the show of the same name. Last time I saw Karen she pulled out her phone to show me a picture of she and Nathan hugging on the set of that particular show-looking like they were ol' buds. Taproot Theatre itself also has another association with Buffy in that Dean Batali, a story editor and writer on the first couple seasons of Buffy worked quite a while at Taproot before-from what I can tell-leaving for the default, "creative differences." I'm still investigating that one.

I recently submitted the following article to be published as the "Dramaturg Notes" in the Big River program in a few weeks.

Big River: A Boy's Story

Audiences became introduced to the dynamic duo of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn with the publication of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in 1876. Huckleberry Finn lived on in its follow-up novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn published nearly a decade later in 1885. The latter story tells of a young boy and his river and the adventures that ensue with their union. While Twain may have set out either to subvert the conventional children’s stories of the time or simply to carry a character through his formative years, Twain’s novels have become essential to modern American literature. His novels have also sparked tremendous controversy within academic and social spheres for Twain’s treatment of race, rebellion and the language of his time especially in the two aforementioned novels about boys in the south. Of Tom Sawyer, Twain is said to have felt strongly that it was "not a boy's book." It was a publisher who convinced him "to treat it explicitly as a boy's story," and sell it on that basis.

In my research of the books’ contexts and the controversy that often surrounds them, I came to see these statements as demonstrating a very important distinction between the "boy's book" and a "boy's story." Why should we assume that just because a story features a young boy on some “coming of age” journey that it is intended for youth? A similar case arises when the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm are considered. We are used to these fairy tales being marketed toward a younger audience, developed in children’s picture books and Walt Disney movies. Upon reading the original texts, one is quick to realize how very dark and gruesome these stories are—many which would garner an ‘R’ rating at the cinema.

While neither Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer nor Huckleberry Finn, which serves as the inspiration for Big River, possess such a degree of grisliness, commentary and public opinion have exposed the harder side of the story including its difficult lessons on moral and social responsibilities.

I know I am not alone in my expression of prudence over the portrait of boyhood and human experience as represented within the pages and in the character of Huckleberry Finn. In the essay, "Mark Twain as Orator," from a journal published on July 10th 1910, Charles Vale writes:

A caricaturist represented Mark Twain's fellow-passengers on the “Minneapolis” as all engaged in studying his various works, and assigned Huckleberry Finn to a small boy. That was an egregious mistake. Boys love it, no doubt: but it needs ripe experience to appreciate its irony, its humanity, and the subtler phases of its humor.

Perhaps the only character as well known as Huck is the river itself. The Mississippi River twists and winds its way across the landscape of Huck’s youth as he floats along. At times the river is wild, other times tranquil, but all the while the river is free flowing like the life Huck longs to live.

Huck and the River itself together paint a rich portrait of a lifestyle far removed from many modern readers, but that very pair also serves to take its readers on an enthralling, meaningful journey of growing up, through the grime of human experience, the joys of boyhood and the kind of humor only Mark Twain could bring. “Life teaches its lessons by implication,” Twain said, “not by didactic preaching; and literature is at its best when it is an imitation of life and not an excuse for instruction.”

My hope is that you, the audience—as has been the desire of the cast and crew—may come to understand Big River in a historical context even through such a lively and colorful medium as a musical. Enjoy this show, as we imitate life on our stage.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Rest in Peace Stan Winston

I just come across some horrible news.

Stan Winston, a veritable pioneer and a incredible continuing force in the special effects business has passed away after a seven-year battle with multiple myeloma cancer. He was only 62.

Stan, multiple Oscar winner, was the lead designer and creator of Hollywood's most recognizable creatures, characters and effects. He worked on Jurassic Park, Aliens, Pumpkinhead, the Terminator franchise-many of his movies are among my favorite films.

A few great articles reflecting on his life can be found here:

Ain't It Cool News
LA Times Blog

Thanks for some great movies and the experiences that came with, Stan. You will be missed.

Monday, June 16, 2008

My Shoes Are So Fascinating...

Like many others, last night I watched the Tony Awards, but followed them throughout the evening, even before the telecast here in Seattle. As I was starting my shift at Intiman Theatre, my friend Wayne from New York informed me that as he was watching the show live, they had just announced that Bartlett Sher, Intiman's Artistic Director, had won his first Tony! His was for best director of the South Pacific revival at Lincoln Center in New York. Two years ago Intiman Theatre won their first Tony for Best Regional Theatre and the small but impressive statue is encased in glass in our lobby. Later that evening, my friend told me he was walking past Radio City Music Hall just as the Tony Awards were getting out. He was a bit star-struck to say the least. I would have loved to be there too!

I have never seen the film, Xanadu but I know enough about it to know that the new Broadway Musical, Xanadu must be one of the most sparkliest, rainbowy shows ever. I can only imagine what their "Pegasus/ Glitter/ Rollerskate" budget looks like. Kerry Butler plays the role made infamous by Olivia Newton-John in the original 1980 movie (congrats to Butler on her 2008 Best Actress American Theatre Wing Tony Award Nomination) and the hunky, muscular-thighs-in-jean-cut-off-shorts-kiss-me-on-a-Central-Park-bench, Cheyenne Jackson, plays the male lead. Cheyenne is originally from Idaho but moved to Seattle before heading off to New York about seven years ago. So, you know, there's already some connection there.

Earlier this afternoon, Keith and my mutual friend Brent sent a great little skit to us with the wonderfully funny and talented Nathan Lane and my aforementioned One-Time-Seattle-ite, Cheyenne.

Thanks, Brent!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The French Were...Confused

Last night I attended the Closing Night Gala for the 2008 Seattle International Film Festival. It was held just a block away from my work at the Cinerama a true historic landmark that was revamped by the illustrious Paul Allen in the late 90s.

I remember going here with my dad to see Jurassic Park when I was just a kid just about 14 years ago. The only way my mother would let my dad take me to the film was to make him inform me prior to the film that *Spoiler Alert* the kids in the movie do not get eaten by the dinosaurs *End Spoilers*. This experience was also recently revisited by a midnight showing of Jurassic Park at The Egyptian Theatre which has a new midnight movie every Friday night and also screens on Saturday. So technically that would make it Saturday and Sunday morning. Anyhow.

I realized after this year's Closing Night Screening that you can tell quite a lot about the movie you will be seeing that night before you ever see a thing on it. The movie is going to be sweet, a little more Hollywood-like, mildly dramatic, beautifully shot, funny and an all around crowd pleaser. Last year we saw Molière which was a visual pleasure and a thoroughly enjoyable farcical retelling-what else for a play about Molière?-of the famous French playwright's life. The movie chosen for this year's Closing Gala regaled on all accounts. The film was Bottle Shock starring Bill Pullman, Alan Rickman, Chris Pine, Rachael Taylor, Freddy Rodriguez and one of our two favorite slayers, Eliza Dushku.

Bill Pullman, Freddy Rodriguez, the director Randall Miller and his wife were all on hand to present the movie to us. My friend and I were sitting in the third row because at least half the-ginormous-movie theatre was reserved for SIFF sponsors and the entire board of directors, so we were definitely feeling "in" the movie, but it was a great spot to be when the cast and crew were brought up to the stage before and after the screening.

In Bottle Shock, Alan Rickman always manages to steal the show with perfect wit and character as he plays a British ex-patriot living in Paris running a small wine shop. He ventures stateside to investigate the new viniculture going on in California in the year 1976 and comes across Bill Pullman's character running an up and coming winery called Chateau Montelena-all this is based on a true story and the winery is still producing. Rickman's character is sampling wines from California in order for them to go head to head with some of France's greatest bottled libations. I won't spoil the events of the movie, but I will say that one of the joys of the film was of course, seeing Eliza Dushku on screen again as Joe, a hard-edged bartender, working her trademark tough and sexy attitude with the patrons of the bar as she sets up a series of blind taste tastes. The film is set to have a wide release in October of this year after a couple of tiered release dates throughout the summer.

At the end of the show, Carl Spence, one of SIFF's Artistic Directors, came up to the stage again to re-introduce the cast for a Q&A session. There were the typical audience questions at these things ranging from "How did you find *blank* actor?" "Um...casting" is the general response to that one from directors-to "When will this be released to audiences everywhere?" There were a few interesting questions and subsequent responses however.

One audience member asked if the movie had been screened in France-an apt question since the premise of the film rests on attempting to debunk the myth of the "irreproachable French vine." Miller responded and said that the film had indeed been screend to several distributors in France. "Some of them were very offended" he said. In regards to others he explained, "the French were...confused," a line at which the audience laughed. There were a few other French quips but nothing that I wouldn't laugh at along with everyone else.

When the cast was asked "How have your drinking habits changed since working on a film involving so much wine? Do you drink more now? Are you a snob?" Miller responded that he and his wife had always been content with "Two-Buck Chuck" and the others agreed that once you have really good wine it is very difficult to go back. When Pullman was handed the microphone he put his hands up in front of him and backed up a few steps. He was not going to touch that one. I was very surprised, actually, at how shy Bill Pullman was in general. He answered questions with incredibly brief answers and even looked visibly uncomfortable. I'm not sure why. We all loved the movie from what I could tell of the audience reaction-the director said we gave exceptional response, which is natural since most of the people there have been faithful SIFF-attendees for the last 25 days!

After the movie and Q&A session we all headed down the street to the Pan Pacific Hotel at the 2200 block of Westlake for the beloved Closing Night Gala Afterparty with free flowing champagne, drink tickets for the bar, excellent food and a couple movie stars-we may have stalked Freddy Rodriguez and the Editor on Dream Boy. Although the venue was the same as last year, the event planners had done a far superior job at keeping everything organized and moving. They also had more space as the restaurant next door to the event space in the Hotel was opened just for the event. A kind gentleman provided my friends and I with additional drink tickets for the event, keeping us tipsy and dehydrated for a couple hours and providing us with sufficient headaches the next day. What a guy.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Let's Teleport Into My Closet

This one goes out to my fair Canadian friends, Nik & Sue and to whoever else in Canada or elsewhere has not been introduced to these incredible YouTube gems. It has come to my attention that there are those who have not experienced the woman that is here presented. For some of you, she needs little or no introduction.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Brenda Dickson. "Welcome to My Home."

Now, here is a parody of Part 2 of the same video:

The newest parody features Brenda Dickson vs. Donna Mills in a Fashion Face Off. Hoot!

There are several more videos of Dickson herself and further parodies; these are the best ones in my opinion, but the rest will provide you with more than a few minutes of entertainment.

I referenced Dickson at the conference this weekend and Sue immediately knew her from "The Young & The Restless" or "Y and R" as the unabashed fan in Sue puts it. This probably marks the first time I have come across someone that became aware of Brenda Dickson via her original television character, Jill Foster Abbott. Oh, and apparently there was more than one Jill along the way...

Saturday, June 7, 2008


As I write this, Ryan-who has graciously helped me to get this blog rolling thereby finally returning me to the blogosphere-and I are sitting in my hotel room watching Buffy fan videos, preceded by a full showing of all the Brenda Dickson videos. I will, of course, be writing full updates of my experiences here in Arkadelphia, AR, but honestly, I am having way too much fun here with these people at this conference. My time here has been incredible. Anyway, back to Buffy.

The first fan video we watched featured Buffy and Faith bantering, fighting, high-fiving all set to the song "Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better)" Was that Bernadette Peters singing? A great little vid. "Anything You Can Do"

Next up was more of a slash piece presenting Buffy and Giles as two star-crossed lovers over several seasons of the show. The song choice and pairing is brilliant. The song? "Don't Stand So Close To Me" by The Police.

Young teacher, the subject
Of schoolgirl fantasy
She wants him so badly
Knows what she wants to be
Inside her theres longing
This girls an open page
Book marking - shes so close now
This girl is half his age

Buffy is represented as the innocent-acting, young school girl who states softly at the beginning of the video "Giles, I'm only sixteen years old..." to a wanting Giles. Check it out: "Don't Stand So Close To Me"

Now we are on to watching behind the scenes YouTube clips from pieces about the show-one particular visit to the Buffy sets of Season 5 with Wanda from E! back from 2002.

Welcome to Arkadelphia, Mr. Klein

After a long day of traveling I am finally sitting in my hotel room on one of two beds—two?—yes, for some reason I have a room with two double beds. I just returned from dinner at Ta Mally’s—“Fine Mexican Food” it declares proudly on the side of the building, located just next to the Hilton operated Hampton Inn—where I was supposed to be staying. More on this later. Ta Mally’s—well, first there is the obvious issue with the name. I am trying to imagine the individual who thought this was a clever business decision for a restaurant that has spawned across several southern states. That mental picture is not clear. However, I imagine his or her thought process went something like this:

1) People who are coming to this “Mexican” restaurant would probably butcher the actual Spanish word “Tamale.” Alright, I suppose this is a legitimate argument all things considered.
2) Perhaps said professional nomenclaturist thought of some cute little backstory that envisioned the origins of the tamale. A woman named Molly in the middle of Mexico started to make small meals for her children by stuffing corn husks with beef and cornmeal during the Great Tortilla Crisis of 1859. Word quickly spread across rural Mexico of this ingenious and delicious dish. Molly’s cooking became so popular that people came from far and wide “To Molly’s.” Eventually began to refer to this almost religious journey as “TaMolly’s.”
3) This brings me to my third and final point on the naming of this “Fine Mexican” restaurant. Should I have said “we are going to TaMolly’s” or the simplified “we are going TaMolly’s?” This is the kind of deep questions pondered in Arkadelphia, Arkansas.

TaMolly’s highlights include a closing time of 9:00PM, incredibly bright lighting, tacky Mexican décor, quick but not “fast-food” type service, food that is drowned in Sour Cream sauce and fake cheese dressing making the entire dish, refried beans, rice and enchiladas all take on the same generic, bland Tex-Mex flavor and no alcohol. Wait, no alcohol? No margheritas, no beer, no nothing? Rewind.

We had been forewarned of this dire situation almost immediately after my introduction to one of the conference volunteers at the airport prior to boarding the shuttle that would take us to the hotels in the vicinity of Henderson State University. Arkadelphia is a completely dry county, he said. Yes, I thought, I knew it would be pretty hot down in southern Arkansas. He continued, would I care to make a stop at the liquor store before we crossed the county line? Word was that none of the other passengers had made a decision on that stop. 10 minutes into the drive, after being informed that not only was the upcoming county ‘dry,’ five adjacent counties were as well, I made the executive decision. We would be making a stop at the liquor store, and with taxes much less and a store far more extensive than anything in Washington, it was well worth it one bottle of Svedka Vodka later—time of opening to be determined. In the event that anyone asks, the others in the van made purchases too.

The day began at 4:45AM, taxi down to Sea-Tac and the first flight to Dallas/Fort Worth which other than some turbulence toward the end, was uneventful. At Dallas, I had a scheduled two hour layover. A trip on the Skyline across two terminals, a plane undergoing maintenance, two gate changes, an open plane door, and two hours more later, I was in the air again heading to Little Rock, Arkansas. The latter flight lasted a mere 45 minutes. I was met by said representative of Slayage Conference 3: Conference on the Whedonverses and a group of other attendees: Ryan, Sonja, Sue and Jen-who then changed her name to Nikki-still confused on that one.

A side note about the Dallas/Fort Worth airport: I have never felt that I was in such close proximity to the war in Iraq than I was walking through the terminals of that airport. A United Service Organization counter is situated squarely in each terminal. (See accompanying tweet). Soldiers in full gear walked up and down the hallways, crowding the restaurants. I overheard several conversations between civilians asking about the war, their homes, their positions and their stations. One woman beamed when she sat down next to a man in the US Army. “Where are you stationed?” “Where’s home?” “Are you on leave?” He answered kindly and she said “Thank you.” “I just bought one of your buddies lunch at Chili’s,” she said. “Thank you” he replied.” I had this overwhelming feeling that I have been and am so detached from the war efforts abroad. I simply look at the war as a movement, a group, an entity. As trite as it may seem to say, these are people with families, some of which have never seen their kid. I am ignorant of the war, yes, I’ll be the first to admit it and perhaps part of me chooses to be. It’s such a hard position to be in. How can I thank someone that is doing something I never decided for him to undergo? What is soldier Harding, Shaw or Pilkington doing for me? What makes these other people so proud—treating soldiers like celebrities as they come home on leave? I don’t know exactly. It was a new and unique experience.

In between flights, the general manager of Hampton Inn & Suites, Hannah Marion called about an “unfortunate situation” that had arisen. They had oversold, so I was moved to the Comfort Inn down the street. After visiting the Hampton Inn & Suites, I am a bit frustrated at being moved, but it really is not so bad—it’s your typical middle-of-the-country hotel room—again with two double beds. Hampton Inn is paying for my first night as well and has offered me the use of all their amenities, including their indoor pool. Ryan is across the street at the Super 8 and the aforementioned women are back at the Hampton.

Did I mention it’s 10:00 at night and it is a cool 75 degrees and extremely humid? After leaving the restaurant a breeze began, but I only wish that temperature sustained itself as the forecast includes highs of 96 degrees through the weekend. I’m fairly certain I’m going to have to change clothes every 15 minutes.