The Peckish Games

*note – this update is sadly missing pictures and links… I will fix this shortly, I promise.

I’ve read The Hunger Games Trilogy. In fact, I read them all in three days flat. I felt that the first two books were fantastic commentary on politics, consumerism and reality television and the third was comparatively limp and directionless, but still an arguably good read.

I didn’t read the series until about a month before the first film premiered; so it was still fresh in my mind as I settled into the comfy seats of my local cineplex.

First thought was that (as is the usual case) the film was not as good as the book. The screenwriter chose (both due to necessity of time and apparent recklessness) to cut 2/3 of the meat from the already slim volume of book one. It should be noted that the books are written entirely from Katniss Everdeen’s point of view. It can be difficult to write a screenplay from a single POV, but not impossible. So many of the twists and turns of the plot rely on Katniss’s internal monologue that cutting it out pretty much eliminates, you know, the whole fricking point.

Insofar as the casting of the main characters, Jennifer Lawson was an excellent choice for Katniss, too bad she didn’t have more to do. Josh Hutcherson, as Peeta, was clearly cast for his physical look and not for his ability to act. As evidence, I give you every movie he has ever been in, ever. Woody Harrelson as Haymitch was far too likable, good-looking, and not nearly drunk enough. The decision to swap his character’s magnificent entrance in the book for a muted exchange on the train-ride to The Capitol was a huge mistake and totally undermined the development of his character.

Despite all of this, I can’t say that the movie was awful. It was OK. Unlike another book-series-turned-film-franchise that felt it necessary to split a book into two parts (coughcoughBreakingDawncoughcough) this story would have actually benefited. I think it would have made sense to have Part One deal with everything leading up to the start of The Games and Part Two taking place entirely in the arena. That way so many truly important elements to the story-line might have found a way to be left in.

It had become so obvious only a third of the way into the movie that they were rushing to get through the story as quickly as possible that by the time they literally fast-forwarded to the end (and acknowledged they were doing so in the dialogue) it was all I could do not to roll my eyes.

It’s just so unfortunate when such a compelling and well-written story is given such short-shrift in its film version. I’m not sure how they’ll make up for skipping so many key details in The Hunger Games when they set about filming Catching Fire this fall (or if they’ll even be able to).

When the second installment does finally make its way to the silver screen, it’s likely I’ll just wait for it to be available for streaming, rather than dropping the full movie-theater price on it.

AND THIS WEEK’S NEW ADDITION TO THE TESTIMONIAL GALLERY IS:

Donald from Take the Red Pill podcast!

Thanks, Donald!

Please continue to send your “I’ve Heard of…” pics to neverheardofjt@gmail.com

Be sure to check back here every week to see who’s new in the gallery!

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Meme Dream Scheme Update!

Ok ya’ll, against all odds, I’ve got a good solid start to realizing my Meme Dream!

And so, it is my pleasure to reveal to you, my official “Testimonial Gallery”!!

You’ll find a link in the menu bar at the top of the page (above the FLAN), or can just CLICK HERE.

This is only a start – I’m seeking far more affirmations that I do (indeed) exist from celebs, lay-people and pets (living or dead) alike – so please help me by submitting your signed photo to neverheardofjt@gmail.com.

I’d like to try and update the gallery with new images at least once a week – will yours be next?

Snakes Are People Too

I had never been to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival – although about ten years ago I had hatched to plan to move to Ashland, OR, the small town where the festival takes place.

Although those plans never came to fruition, I finally made it to the little hamlet a couple of weeks ago to see one of my dearest friends star as the second lead in the world premiere production of The White Snake – written and directed by Tony Award-winner Mary Zimmerman.

The White Snake is based around the Chinese folk-tale of a two snake spirits (white and green) who, after spending 1700 years studying the Tao, decide to leave the safety of their mountain dwelling and disguise themselves as female humans to spend a day among mankind. White Snake falls in love with a young pharmacist’s assistant  called Xu Xian and, with the help of her best friend Green Snake, manages to woo the young man, marry him, and help him to open his own successful pharmacy. Fa Hai, a Buddhist priest recognizes the true identity of White Snake and wreaks all kinds of havoc. The end is bittersweet, with a sort of “love conquers all” moral.

White Snake Battles a Crane Spirit
- photo credit Jamie Francis, The Oregonian

The production of The White Snake was amazing. Writer/Director Zimmerman used a patch-work of theatrical tropes and traditions to quilt together a beautiful re-telling of the folk tale. Within the staging she not only acknowledged the many different versions the story with cute “it might have happened like this… OR like this” moments (think the end of the film Clue), she also incorporated a hint of Greek chorale narration and direct-from-the-textbook rules for making an entrance in Chinese theatre AND also threw puppetry on top of it all like an adorable, symbolic, cherry.

Amy Kim Waschke as White Snake and Tanya McBride as Green Snake
- photo credit: Jamie Francis, The Oregonian

The role of White Snake was beautifully and adeptly portrayed by Amy Kim Waschke. Her sprightly companion Green Snake, was played with delightful vim, vigor and capriciousness by (my friend) Tanya McBride. White Snake’s love interest Xu Xian was played by the charming and sweet Christopher Livingston. Rounding out the main characters was an excellently evil Jack Willis as the devious monk Fa Hai.

Jack Willis as Fa Hai
- photo credit: Jamie Francis, The Oregonian

While it would be easy to just say that my friend was great and leave it at that, I feel I must clear away any assumptions that I’m saying she’s great only because she’s my friend.

I hadn’t seen Tanya perform on stage since high school. This was not a short time ago…our ten year reunion has long since come and gone. I truly had no idea what to expect. I was resolved to be supportive, of course, and previous notices from her work in Chicago led me to believe that she would be quite good; however, nothing is more heart-stoppingly awesome than seeing someone whom you care for like family not only succeed in their art, but do EXCEEDINGLY phenomenal work. I am so proud of her my chest hurts with glee.

If you are any where near Ashland, OR this spring and early summer I urge you to check out this production. The performances, the staging, the beauty of it all will overwhelm you.

Green Snake, White Snake and Xu Xian (Christopher Livingston)
- photo credit: Jamie Francis, The Oregonian

That’s a Wrap! Part Two

Day Two at Emerald City Comic Con began with a failed attempt to get into Wil Wheaton’s 90 Minute Awesome Hour. The panel was so popular, we were unable to get into either one of the two back-to-back presentations.

We ended up wandering the show floor aimlessly for a bit, taking a few cosplay photos here and there, before finally deciding to grab some lunch and head back to the main hall (4A) for the Warehouse 13 panel with Eddie McClintock.

We arrived at the hall a little early, and actually caught the tail-end of The Walking Dead panel with Jon Bernthal (Shane) and Laurie Holden (Andrea). They both seemed nice enough, especially Jon, who was getting the majority of the questions as his character’s arc had ended with the season 2 finale. Nothing revelatory came out of the last five minutes of questions. Mostly just well-wishing for Jon and excitement for the new season.

Jon Bernthal and Laurie Holden

Eddie was super personable and a treat to watch. He admitted right out of the gate that he’d been instructed not to spoil anything for the new season of WH13, and then promptly announced that he was going to disregard the direction. Naturally, this garnered many cheers. Eddie was determined not to be constrained by standard panel rules and, during the Q&A, grabbed a mic and actually left the stage to speak to the questioners face-to-face. He offered hugs and handshakes and kept running from stage right to left to give each person his full attention and presence.

Eddie McClintock

Finally, the con volunteers had reached a state of apoplexy and the moderator quietly asked Eddie to please finish the Q&A from the stage. He complied, but continued to stand, running back and forth across the stage to get as close to the fans asking questions as he could.

Eddie McClintock, doing his best to give "face-time" to his fans...

I know this is the type of thing that drives convention personnel up the wall, but I LOVE it when the Talent does this. By being completely open and willing to “mingle” with fans, Eddie actually guaranteed a smooth and enjoyable panel.

Even though he threw down the gauntlet with his willingness to offer spoilers for the new season, hardly anyone inquired of any truly “spoiler-y” information. The most spoiler-ific questions anyone asked were regarding whether certain actors would be appearing again. If Eddie knew the answer, he gave it, if not, he admitted ignorance and you could tell he wasn’t lying, or being shady.

Ok, so here are the “spoilers” Eddie offered… I don’t think they’re that big a deal, but still, you have been warned.

Q: With the destruction of Warehouse 13 at the end of last season, will the new facility be named 14?
A: The name of the show is Warehouse 13, that’s not changing. The new facility has some surprises, but the name isn’t one of them.

Q: Will Kate Mulgrew be back?
A: Yes. I keep trying to convince the producers that Bruce Campbell should totally play my dad. Hasn’t worked yet, but I think I can wear them down.

Q: Will there be any cross-overs with Eureka characters, even though Eureka has been cancelled?
A: Not that I’m aware of. I’d love a cross-over with Alphas, though.

Q: Did the dog survive the explosion of the Warehouse?
A: There was a secret doggie-door in the back he got out through. Kidding. But seriously, dude, we’re not gonna kill a dog. Yes, he survived.

Q: Will Jinx be back?
A: He’s so important to Pete, I think he has to be.

Q: Will the relationship between Pete and Micah evolve into something more?
A: I really hope not. I’ve told the writers that I hope not. I think it would be a mistake. They really are more “brother/sister”, and I think changing that would seriously mess things up for the show.

Finally, not so much a spoiler as an “everyone was wondering the same thing” question:

Q: Is the [sexual] tension between H.G. and Micah on purpose?
A: The writers totally know what they are doing there. But, I will say that I think it’s more of a deep, mutual, respect for each other [between HG and Micah] as strong, intelligent women than genuine sexual tension.

I don’t know what to make of that answer. If you’re a fan of the show then you know what the questioner was talking about. If the writer’s “totally know what they are doing” than that poses the follow-up, then WHY would it only be “deep, mutual, respect” when it reads on screen as SO MUCH MORE. Seriously, every time they share screen time, I keep expecting one of them to say, “step any closer and I’m gonna kiss your face” or something.

If there is anyone that I regret NOT getting an autograph from it’s Eddie. He is the nicest, funniest, chillest dude and just a guy I’d love to hang out with (although not get a beer with because he’s 12 years sober).

We had a  little time to kill between panels, so we headed back down to the Signing Floor to scope out the lines. Wil’s was impossibly long, as was Summer Glau’s (River from Firefly), and Jon Bernthal’s, however Laurie Holden’s was surprisingly short. I actually felt a little bad for her not having as many fans as Jon (apparently), so I decided – being a fan of the show in general – to pay her a visit.

Well, I’m gonna be honest. Laurie did not seem like she wanted to be there. Maybe her ego was a little bruised at the low turn-out to her table, I dunno, but she sat there smacking her gum like a valley girl and completely aloof to the proceedings. I went out of my way to compliment her acting skills (to the unnecessary point of almost gushing) because I wanted to brighten her mood a little, and she just said, “Yeah, well, thanks.”

Laurie Holden, staring off into the middle-distance, it's kinda what she does...

Admittedly, I don’t know what was going on inside her head at the moment – she might have just found out her goldfish died, or her flight was cancelled, or something – but I still think she would have benefited from a quick read of Wil Wheaton’s Guide to How to Behave at Conventions. Especially Rules Four and Five.

After this (the second day in a row leaving the media signing room with a WTF just happened feeling) we headed over to a small, pleasant, panel spotlighting Lady Death comic creator, Brian Pulido.

Brian Pulido

Much like the Robert Kirkman panel on day one, this panel had no moderator and Mr. Pulido held the floor solo. He started off giving a circuitous history of his career, often mixing up dates in his timeline – I was almost certain he’d secretly discovered the ability to time-travel between the early 90’s and 2000’s at one point. Finally, I was able to figure out that when he said 2002, most of the time he meant 1992, and when he said 1992, he may have been referring to 1989.

Time crises aside, Brian Pulido was a decent speaker – clearly very passionate about his books, and open about both his successes and his failures. He’d started his own independent comic publishing company in a time when it was MUCH harder to do so, and with absolutely no clue what he was doing; you’ve got to respect that kind of drive and determination against such odds.

After the Pulido Panel, we hoofed it back over to the main hall to get in line for the George Takei panel – which was certain to be packed.

George Takei, man. What a guy. What an AWESOME guy! I could listen to him read the phone book. I just wish that the convention planners hadn’t thought it was a good idea to hire Danny Bonaduce to moderate. Danny refers to himself as “The Duce” (pronounced “dooch”) which is sort of appropriate because it closely sounds like “douche” – which he is.

The "Duce" dropped a "Deuce"

The “Duce” literally tried to make George’s interview about himself. Every time George made a reference to an event in his career, Danny felt he needed to compare it to his own and how awesome he was. “George, you were on Howard Stern – I was on Howard Stern! You speak Japanese, I know one phrase! Score for the Duce!”

Anyway, the real interview started when the floor was opened up to the fans. Someone asked about the musical George is producing called Allegiance. It’s about the Japanese Internment camps in America during WWII. George and his family were forced to live in one. George was only five at the time, but the experience left an indelible mark on him. George worked with composer/lyricist Jay Kuo and writer/producer Lorenzo Thorne to create the musical which is now in rehearsals for its world premier at The Old Globe in San Diego, CA. I encourage to learn more about it.

Another fan asked about his work for LGBT rights, and George spent a good deal of time discussing his “It’s OK to be Takei” movement, which is a direct response to the new Tennessee law prohibiting teachers in public schools from using the word “gay” in discussions about sexuality. Seriously, the word is illegal. So George launched a campaign authorizing the use of his name in substitution for “gay”, because he’s a proud member of the LGBT community, and his last name happens to rhyme with gay. It’s pronounced “Tah-kay” not “Tah-KI”.

As a worthy follow-up, a fan gifted George with a lovely purple sash with the golden words, “It’s OK to be Takei” painted on it. He wore it for the remainder of the panel. So. Awesome.

It's OK to Be Takei!! Oh MY...

That wrapped up Day Two.

Day Three was essentially me standing in two lines for signatures. One, Wil Wheaton and two, George Takei.

Wil was very nice, and very rushed. The guy had hundreds of fans to get through, and not a lot of time to make it happen. He was scheduled really tightly between signing and photo ops, and he really did the best he could to give each fan his full, if brief, attention. By the time I got up to him, he looked pretty ragged out, but was still smiling, polite and appreciative of the attention. We didn’t say much to each other, except what I’d like him to sign, and where,  and a quick “nice to meet you, thanks for coming” and still I felt like he’d given me his full attention. If you have the chance to meet him, do.

Wil Wheaton, genuine nice guy

George Takei is the coolest dude ever. Despite having a line equal to Wil’s, he spent almost a full minute with me (in fairness, he didn’t have as tight a schedule as Wil). I was actually feeling guilty for the attention. We chatted about his work in LGBT rights, and he made the incredibly valid point that we aren’t truly free in America until ALL of us are free. I thanked him for being a true patriot, and then we talked about his awesome April Fool’s joke from his Facebook page. If you missed it, here’s a link. I shook his hand, and cradled my newly signed 8×10 close as I walked away.

On the way out of the convention, I stopped to buy a couple of art pieces (including a personalized, signed by the artist copy of Jim Henson’s A Tale of Sand), and took a few more cosplay photos.

And then I (finally) headed home. I was exhausted. But it was soooo worth it!!
Here are the combined cosplay pics from Days Two and Three:

He's Got Red On Him...

YES.

Illyria from Angel

Bagpipe Vader!! I missed the opportunity to get him on his unicycle, but I doubt I would have had as clear a picture....

A Trio of Katnisses... Katnissi??

Final Fantasy FTW!!!

Majorus Major from Zelda

Rebel Soldier

Ghostbuster (his backpack had a sound system that played the theme... awesome.)

Chewie!!

Red Fraggle

a Couple of Assasins (Creed bonus with purchase...)

And finally, my favorite mash-up cosplay of ALL TIME:

BEAKER SOLO!!!!

Everyone sing with me (to the tune of the Star Wars theme)

Meep meep meep meep MEEP meepmeepmeep MEEP meep!

Meepmeepmeep MEEP meep!

Meep Meep Meep Meeeeeeep!

That’s A Wrap! Part One

Wow you guys, so much to talk about! Last week was my first (and most likely last) real vacation of the year. We still have a few three-day weekends planned here and there, but no more week-long adventures.

I’m trying to decide what to cover first – the trip to Oregon Shakespeare Festival where we saw an AMAZING piece of theatre – or the three EPIC days spent at  Emerald City Comic Con.

Well, I guess since I teased the ECCC last Friday with my little place holder post I’ll start with that and circle back around to Oregon Shakes next week, because I really want to give both of them their due.

So much happened that I’m going to break the wrap-up into two posts! Without further ado, here is PART ONE:

ECCC started Friday afternoon and ran through the early evening on Sunday. We had only just gotten back from Oregon Thursday night after a particularly difficult drive (apparently Thursday was THE day to get into an accident on I-5NB – we chose not to join the fun, but had to put up with everyone else who did) so the wife and I were more than happy that the festivities weren’t set to get underway until 2pm because it meant that we could SLEEP.

We rolled up to the convention center Friday afternooon and immediately set about getting the lay of the land. There was some decent cosplay this first day, but overall the show floor was relatively subdued, as though everyone was saving their energy for what was certain to be an intense weekend. We met and spoke with some terrific artists who were selling their wares, and decided after a couple of circuits of the floor to check out a couple of panels.

The first panel we sat in on was The Art of the Whedonverse and featured Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 and 9 lead artist Georges Jeanty, inker Andy Owens and amazing cover artist Phil Noto. The panel was moderated by Dark Horse PR director Jeremy Atkins, but really it was Georges who held court. They had a PowerPoint of “sketch to ink” from several recent Buffy Season 9 books, which was neat. It was also almost a relief to see that even professional artists can sketch horribly compared to the final product where they put all of their effort. Especially Phil Noto – you would never have thought that a guy who makes a career out of drawing photo-real covers would sketch like a 9-yr old, but it made me feel better somehow to know that he does.

They were focused on the artwork and not the story structure, therefore questions were limited to the art – which was fine, but I’m sure that I wasn’t the only one burning to ask questions about the most recent issue of B:tVS Season 9 such as “DUDE, WTF??!” Instead, I asked how difficult it was to draw Sarah Michelle Gellar’s nose, let’s face it, she has a unique nose. Georges stated that as long as you knew the character on the page was Buffy, it didn’t really matter how accurate the nose was. I agreed, but countered that too much emphasis on the proboscis lent itself to caricature and was frankly distracting whereas inattention led to questioning the character’s authenticity. Georges stated that Joss said he didn’t want an exact representation of SMG, but rather a believable Buffy. I pointed out that while Buffy and SMG are definitely two very different people (the one a character, the other a person) that it is Sarah’s visage that we associate with the Buffy identity, so some semblance of recognition is necessary.

Yeah, Buff, I'm scared of your nose here too....

Much, much, MUCH better...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, Phil Noto stepped in (he clearly understood where I was going, whereas Georges seemed more on the defensive) and answered that for him, drawing SMG as Buffy was the most stressful of all of the actors because he knew that he had to be “extra careful” with her features. All of the actors get final approval of their artwork, so if Sarah didn’t like it, she could reject it. Fortunately, she was thrilled with Phil’s work, reportedly saying that his was the best she’d ever seen and now he has to draw all of the covers that feature Buffy (which basically means ALL of the covers).

Thank heavens for Phil, otherwise I would have gotten seriously frustrated with this panel because when I boiled it down afterwards, I realized it was 90% Georges complimenting himself.

After the Whedonverse panel wrapped, we moseyed down to the signing area and were fortunate enough to catch Adam Baldwin (Jayne from Firefly) and Lea Thompson (Back to the Future) while there was a lull in line traffic. Adam presents himself as a nice guy and indeed he was very nice to me. I know that there has been some friction of late between him and Wil Wheaton over in the Twitterverse, but I’m not going to comment on it beyond stating that I disagree with Adam’s position in the argument and leave it at that. However, that being said, when dealing with fans and autograph seekers, Adam was respectful, appreciative and polite.

Adam Baldwin

It is rare that I am star struck. Very rare. I grew up in a family of entertainment industry pros, and rubbing elbows with celebrities came with the territory. As a result, meeting a celebrity for me is more “neat” than “Whoa”. Even when I met Jimmy Fallon in NYC by surprise I wasn’t struck dumb by his presence. Rather, we enjoyed a little casual banter before he and his friends had to leave. So, you would think that meeting Lea Thompson would also be “no big”. I thought it would be “no big”, then it turned out to be “Big” and I wasn’t prepared.

Lea Thompson is super-dee-duper nice, and incredibly gracious. I walked up to her table and paid for my autograph and handed over the 8×10 and then went stupid. I went totally stupid. I just stared at her. I had told her assistant what I would like her to sign and as result had given up my lead-in to a conversation. Lea threw me a bone by asking me to confirm my request and I managed to stammer out something like “Yes, I have this blog and it’s based on people not knowing me and … heh….” Then she said something like, “That’s cute”, and happily signed a way while I continued to STARE AT HER LIKE A DUMBSTRUCK IDIOT.

Lea, I still have no idea what happened, but it was super nice to meet you

I was frantically trying to remember what the name of her sitcom in the 90’s was because I was trying to think of something she had done more recently than Back to the Future, and no one in their right mind would have said, “I LOVED you in Howard the Duck” so I just continued to stand there while she finished signing and a light sheen of sweat formed on my brow. Then she handed me the signed photo and said, “Thanks, Jen Tidwell , it’s great to know you!”

Somehow, by the grace of the cosmic muffin in the sky, I managed to squeak out a thank you, and then said something utterly lame like, “I hope you have a great con. Don’t get writer’s cramp” and suddenly it was over and we were walking away. My wife snapped me out of my stupor by saying, “Oh my gosh, she was SO NICE! She looks so young in person. Her photos don’t do her justice” and I gratefully came back to reality. I still don’t know what happened back there. I’ve never been a super fan of hers, I’ve never had a crush on her (still don’t), and I can’t think of any reason why she would have star struck me. Maybe she just has a powerful aura or something (if you believe in that kind of thing).

Oh, and the name of the sitcom she was on was “Caroline in the City”… which I finally remembered two days later.

After the fiasco that was me getting Lea’s autograph, I was more than happy to settle in for another panel. This was a spotlight panel on Robert Kirkman, creator of (most notably) The Walking Dead comic, and executive producer on the T.V. series. There was no moderator, just the man himself. He is extremely personable and very quick witted, and held command of the room easily. The only request he made of us in earnest was that we try not to spoil the Season 2 finale for folks who hadn’t seen it yet. Only one questioner utterly failed at this simple directive, and the poor girl was met with the ire of an entire room, I felt bad for her, but was glad it wasn’t me.

Robert Kirkman

I, on the other hand, garnered cheers and applause for my question which was this, “Based on the death of a certain character can we hope for more development of Lori’s character so that we understand WHY Rick loves her?” Seriously, if you follow the show you know what I’m talking about. However, I can’t take credit for coming up with the question. It was my friend Tanya’s question, which I asked on her behalf. So Tanya, take pride in knowing that everyone agrees with you (including me) – and apparently including Robert Kirkman, too, because he stated that yes, there will be more development for Lori and the Lori/Rick relationship. I followed up Tanya’s question with my own, “Can we expect the characters to be more PROACTIVE as opposed to reactive with the zombie threat?” To which he said that we, as viewers, “can expect a shift in the way things are handled.” Which I guess means yes. Only a noncommittal yes. Which is fine.

That wrapped up Day One for us. Stay tuned for Days Two and Three!

In the meantime, here is some of the cosplay action from Friday that we managed to capture on camera:

The ECCC Super Hero Mascots

Excellent 10th Doctor Cosplay

The Dude Abides...
(and has the most comfortable costume ever)

A little "crossplay" Rorschach from Watchmen

Saw a LOT of Codexes at the con. But only this one was photobombed by Princess Bonnibel Bubblegum!

Also from Adventure Time! Finn the Human(s) with Jake the Dog (on shoulder)

Someone should really write a comic book mashing up these characters....

Stay tuned for the Wrap-Up Part 2!