23 April 2012

Public Art and Animal Adoptions Steampunk Style!

Is this a clothing boutique, or an animal-adoption center, or a cosplay clubhouse with a "kraken" pulling an "eighteen-foot zeppelin" through the ceiling? Watch Donna Ricci's [revised] video for "Public Art and Animal Adoptions Steampunk Style" and you may be able to answer that question. Then again, I've watched it, and the idea is still blurry around the edges.

Contribute, or someone will strap goggles to each of these animals.

And what does all this have to do with Doctor Who? Ricci also plans to build a TARDIS outside the boutique, a prop that "will be available to the public 24 hours a day." Is this the "public art"? If I LARP on the street or wear Klingon-face to Burger King, is that public art? Do people consider Doctor Who steampunk? What does this have to do with stray dogs and parakeets?

Maybe I'm in the wrong simply for asking such questions. Ricci asserts that steampunk is "based around science-fiction," "largely based in the Victorian era," and "almost beyond definition--there is no right or wrong answer." Problem solved: steampunk is whatever you want it to be. If there's some Victoriana in there, all the better, but medieval Scandinavian sea-monsters and 1960s British science-fiction TV shows both count as steampunk, as do stray dogs and clapper-boards with digital displays.

I assume that the popularity of steampunk doesn't spring from nostalgia for late-19th-century scientific racism, or Jim Crow, or America's colonial adventure in the Philippines, or laws that kept women from voting, or police repression of the labor movement--but I could be wrong. Now that I think about it, the lack of interest in the actual 19th century on the part of steampunk fans suggests that I am wrong.

Is steampunk then a symptom of postmoderns' nostalgia for modernity, for that reassuring sense that humanity is making Progress? There is an undeniable beauty to modernity's grand narratives, wherein we will someday fly personal aeroplanes to our 20-hour-a-week jobs, or explore the universe in soviet-built rocketships. In the US, at least, we seem to be returning to the Gilded Age of robber barons and tentacled trusts; is "steampunk" a way of imagining a liberated but individualist fantasy of that period, where artisanal rocket boots, and not unions or political parties, can save us from bread lines and 12-hour workdays?

18 April 2012

Tangentially Zombie Wednesday: Rise of the Steam Goddess

I'm glad the word steampunk is so popular, because it's a real time-saver. It's like a handkerchief on the roommate's doorknob, code for "MASTURBATING--DO NOT DISTURB." Don't worry, bro! When you drop the s-bomb, I realize that wanking is in progress, and I can spare both the wanker and myself the shame of discovery. Unless, that is, I'm doing research for new Shitstarter posts. In that case, I kick in the door.

Dame Frances "Fanny" Juggins, Lady Bustington

I know what you're thinking. Some of you were reading along, and then when you got to the photo of Dame Fanny (above), you lost track of what I was saying. Maybe you even let slip a little wolf-whistle, in spite of yourself. A few of you might even have hoped that this woman was the artist responsible for the Kickstarter project, or at least that she appears in the video; after all, a big PLAY button hovers just above her endowments.

But such is the visual rhetoric of Kickstarter pages like the one for Ben Hamby's Rise of the Steam Goddess. Not only is Dame Fanny not the party responsible for the page, she does not even appear in the video. She is the bait, and Professor Hamsley Piggins, Marquess of Bloatingsford (below), is the switch. If you don't believe me, watch his video, which consists of Piggins sitting on a couch and holding forth about his novel of "steam-powered zombies" in an English accent that made me consider, in this order, homicide, suicide, and genocide.

"I know all there is to know about the crying game." --K.K. Rotwang

Steampunk may be the new the sink to which porky, some-college mediocrity drains. For fans with a DIY impulse, it's a snap: buy an olde-tyme hat on EBay or at the Halloween store, glue some feathers and watch parts to it, and vòila, le punk--le punk de steam! Making a convincing suit of mail, Dalek-voice ring-modulator, or bat'leth takes way more work. Besides, unlike "boffer" (i.e. foam-weapon) LARP, steampunk demands little exertion, apart from squeezing into those getups. No, you won't see any mob of steampunks chasing about St. James Park, clubbing each other with foam bumbershoots, eh, guv'nor?

Steampunk is specific enough to be useful to my purposes--I can search for the word in Kickstarter and find no shortage of awful self-promotion--but it is also a vague enough buzzword to attract all manner of "creative" awfulness to its banner.

Long live steampunk.

16 April 2012


This Kickstarter project from Emilee Wilson aims to "show the world that pole dance is a sport." "Everyone knows it is a form of fitness," she asserts, "but does it belong in the Olympic Games?" 

[Your pun HERE!]

You're probably thinking, "Pole-dancing? Isn't that what strippers do?" Wilson and company are adamant that pole-dancing is not stripping, and that it is not done for money; their slogan, "no tipping and no stripping," appears both in the text description and in the video. It seems that Wilson is trying to deflect charges that pole-dancing is little more than slightly de-sexualized striptease. The implication is that because athletic/artistic pole-dancers do not take off all their clothes, and because they do not expect to have spectators give them cash, athletic/artistic pole-dancers are somehow nobler than women who dance nude around poles for money.

This strikes me as deeply ironic, in that it suggests an anti-feminist position regarding female sexuality and sex work. The position seems to be that it's OK for women to be sexy, as long as they aren't going to do any lap-dances, and that (maybe) it's OK for women to have sex, but it's not OK for them to have sex in exchange for money.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I should state that while I find mostly- and entirely-nude women fascinating, and while I also think that it should be legal for consenting adults to pay for striptease or for sex, I nevertheless find stripping and strip clubs repulsive. There's something about the tease of the dancing that I find personally degrading and humiliating. I hate that I can't look away from nude women who have no intention of getting to know me, let alone having sex with me. I respond like Pavlov's dog to the ringing of the bell, fully aware that my dish will remain empty. Strip clubs expose and exploit my desires without my consent.)

To return to Wilson's argument, consider the above still from her promotional video. Pole dancing isn't stripping, Wilson claims, but the video's images say otherwise. Here we see an athletic young woman with shaved limbs and a cultivated tan spinning around a pole, an iridescent curtain behind her. She wears thigh-high boots with six-inch heels. Her bikini top and bottom have bows, which suggest tying, but also--and more strongly in this context--un-tying, with a single tug. A jewel in the dancer's navel reminds us to look at her lower abdomen, while the lighting and the framing prevent us from looking at her face. Everything about the scene evokes strip clubs, and a classically eroticizing and objectifying male gaze, since this creature has no face with which to look back.

Thus the brand of pole-dancing that Wilson promotes simultaneously reminds us of women dancing in strip clubs even as Wilson and company disavow that same practice. We get the worst of both worlds: the ogling and sleaze of Roxie's at 2 AM, mixed with an equal measure of Puritanism and slut-shaming.

Consider this thought-experiment: imagine an Olympic event based on hard-core pornography. No money changes hands and nobody's genitals are exposed. Male dancers dress in black PVC thongs and bondage harnesses, and female dancers dress in lacy lingerie or leather bikinis. They perform the contorted sexual moves of gonzo pornography and live sex shows, while judges give them points in different categories. It's all strictly PG-rated. If you note the resemblance to videos of secretaries servicing well-hung bosses, or Japanese-girlschool dildo parties, or black-on-blonde anal gangbangs, the judges will arch their eyebrows, peer over their opera-glasses, and tell you that this is a rigorous sport.

In answer to Wilson's question, I'm going with, "No, pole-dancing doesn't belong in the Olympic Games."

13 April 2012

Bonobo Chat: An App for Talking with Apes

Ken Schweller, a professor of computer science and psychology, has developed software that helps humans communicate with chimpanzees. I lack the training to evaluate his research, so I can oly hope that it is as good as his Kickstarter page, which is gold.

I'm throwing this into my next PowerPoint,
to make sure my students are paying attention.

Prof. Schweller built a Robo-Bonobo. Here Scwheller plays "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" on a harmonica, as a super-title tells us what the Robo-Bonobo thinks.

What has science done?

What will the bonobos say to us? Whatever it is, it won't top Scwheller's Kickstarter page. And will it matter, once Schweller equips his bonobos with tablet computers that allow them to remotely control the Robo-Bonobos?

The bonobological singularity is here.

11 April 2012

Zombie Wednesday: Rebel Wellness Gardens - 'We Survived the Zombie Apocalypse'

Some people seem incapable of getting motivated unless they imagine that society has collapsed due to a zombie apocalypse. Exercising? Donating blood? Preparing for utility outages? Gardening? Bo-ring! But if you make them part of a zombie apocalypse in which all human institutions collapse, where survivors play Robinson Crusoe in the ruins of modernity, then everything becomes jolly funtime.

We make survivalism FUN!

So Andrew Smith's zombie-themed primer on starting a community garden should come as little surprise. It takes the resurgence in gardening and the locavore movement and combines them with the old zombie apocalypse. The twist is that in this scenario, the zombie part is over. I imagine that gardening after a zombie apocalypse is... much like gardening before a zombie apocalypse, but the garden-stores are all closed, and you have to pump your own water. Really, the only time that the gardening experience is significantly different is during the actual zombie apocalypse.

What surprises me is that Smith didn't combine zombies and locavorism with that fad that keeps walking, despite smelling dead: the praise of bacon. Zombie apocalypse bacon! What's more DIY than raising your own pigs and slaughtering them? You get to fight the ghouls that try to invade your compound, while inside, you learn about swine husbandry, slaughter, and processing. Dispatch the pig with a well-placed bullet or blow from a tire iron (remember: you must destroy the brain!), then cook the pig whole, and you and your cosplay friends can tear your dinner apart with your bare hands. Appendices will explain how to make organs and gristle into sausage.*


Here are some other ideas that Smith's project has given me.
The Rock-and-Roll Knitter's Handbook to Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse. (includes patterns for knit rifle-cases and tactical vests)

A Cosplayer's Guide to Building Props that Would Survive a Real Zombie Apocalypse (but Still Look Like PVC).

This Fixed-Gear Cupcake Kills Zombies!

This Bacon Kills Zombies, or The Steampunk Slaughterman's Primer on Surviving the Revenant Deceased in a Manner Befitting Subjects of Her Majesty, with Appendices on Goggles, Pneumatic Captive-Bolt Stunners, and Abattoir Corsetry.
*Note: You must process all the flesh quickly, to avoid putrefaction. Gore effects master Tom Savini bought real pig entrails to use in the dismemberment scenes of Day of the Dead (Romero, 1985), but a member of the production crew accidentally unplugged the refrigerator, letting the guts begin to decay. By the time the crew filmed the scene using the decaying viscera, the stench was enough to make most of them ill.

09 April 2012

Hovercraft Amps

Kickstarter is like an enormous used-record store. I spend most of my time there looking for early-70s LPs bearing photos of guys whose only hope of ever getting laid was starting a band. Every now and then, I find a record I consider buying for non-irony value. Once in a long while, I find something so rare and wonderful that it brings tears of joy to my eyes, say a test-pressing of Black Sabbath's Master of Reality, or the stack of Los Crudos EPs and splits that someone stole from my apartment on Arsenal during a party in 1996. Hovercraft Amps is such a find.

"A mountain walked or stumbled."

If you want to know what kind of amp tone makes K. K. Rotwang consider turning to crime to possess it, play the video on Hovercraft's page. It's not a "good" promotional video, by Kickstarter standards. The campaign's creator, Nial McGaughey, does not stand before the camera making a heartfelt appeal for money, or cracking jokes about the difficulty of starting an artisanal retro-amp workshop. No sophisticated editing suggests high production values. McGaughey just points the camera at the cliff-face of a Hovercraft half-stack, then lets the forces of tube-driven nature take their course.

That course consists of irradiating you with wide-frequency ionizing tube overdrive until your skeleton glows, causing your flesh to boil away and ignite in a slow-motion doom-cloud that dissolves the objects around you. When you are a luminous skeleton-ghost, held together by bong-resin and infra-bass hypergravity, then your 666th chakra will open, connecting you to the One Riff coterminous with all time, space, birth, and death.

06 April 2012

St. Louis Week: "The Shaft Build"

This Kickstarter project promises to revise our understanding of our world, starting with our understanding of the Great Pyramid of Giza. It's not a monument to a dead pharaoh; it's "a stone steam engine built by the Atlanteans 12,000 years ago."

"Just talkin 'bout [Atlantean steam engines]!"

The author clearly understands the potential significance of such a finding, and therefore poses following a rhetorical question: "If you could completely rewrite 12,,000 years of world history, enlighten 7B people, and solve Man's oldest, and greatest enigma, would you do it?" [sic] Clearly the writer has contemplated re-writing world history. The pity is that he didn't bother re-writing the text of his Kickstarter page, the one where he asks us for $62,000 to support his outsider scholarship (and outsider punctuation).

The author is not shy about his qualifications to revise our understanding of human history. According to his autobiographical sketch, he is "A literal renaissance man," one having "vast exposure and experience in Engineering, Design, Sewing, Machining, Surveying, Writing, Acting, Philosophy, and Spirituality." Literally.

His video runs over nine minutes, but evinces high production values. In the interview that dominates that video, he explains his qualifications in another way, and explains his methodology:
I'm not a scientist. I can give you a laundry list of what I'm not. I'll tell you what I am, though. I specialize in one simple thing: free and independent thinking. Newton called it pure thought. I think unobstructed by opinions, unobstructed by schools of thought, even unobstructed by the evidence. The evidence of the other hundred-and-eighteen pyramids up and down the Nile will block the starting point. The evidence of written history will keep you from the starting point.
Let's hope the evidence doesn't keep the author from his $62,000 goal.

04 April 2012

St. Louis Week: Life's Interesting Dramas

Here's a Kickstarter project that might interest afficionados of outsider art, or social workers apt to call the cops on parents who make their kids read Daddy's poetry on YouTube. It's a reversal of the usual, "Lemme read you this goofy thing my kid wrote."

Aww, Daaaad...

The author's poetry not only rhymes, but it resonates with contemporary debates about the growing inequality of wealth in the US:
Never forget who controls all wealth,
Your life breath, your possessions and your health.
For all the silver and gold passing through many hands,
Vast and innumerable as the oceans and sands,
Belong to The Maker who created this world,
When the ugliness of hunger and homelessness is unfurled.
Call me insensitive to poetic impulses, but I don't find the speaker's claims reassuring--but this Blog Post isn't about me or my Desire to expropriate the rich. This is about the Poet, and his random Capitalization, which I can only hope is as unpredictable in Life's Interesting Dramas as it is on the Kickstarter page that describes said anthology as "the Book of Poetry with 100 of my very best poems covering a variety of Topics."

The project goes beyond poetry. The book includes paintings by the author.

"I got the [painting], a ménage à trois/ Musta broke those Frenchies' laws..."

I must admit that while I don't know much about painting, I sure like this one. See, I like to imagine I'm the one in that room, and the painting is what I'm seeing, because that naked lady is giving me the "Paint me, Big Boy" eyes. Furthermore, the lady with the deltoids and the cleavage is giving me the "I can't believe you're going to paint her while I'm in the room... yet I find the prospect thrilling" eyes. (It must be the wine.) It seems we're in Paris, where people are classy and drink wine and put things on pedestals. My presence here suggests I'm on vacation, and able to afford to go to abroad on vacation. If I were really in that room, I'd turn the portrait of the epaulette-wearing guy to the wall and show Miss Nude France how we paint 'em in the U. S. A.

(Then again, the painting also makes me want to call the Missouri Department of Social Services' Child Abuse hotline.)

Yet the artist's ambition does not end here. Life's Interesting Dramas is to comprise not only the book, but an "animated movie." Is this the "Classical Movie" of the Kickstarter page's title? I am curious to see how the artist realizes his "classical" vision in animation.

02 April 2012

St. Louis Week: Gimme Gimme Gimme

Kicking off St. Louis Week on Shitstarter, we have this project, in which Robin Tidwell aims to raise money for a "new novel." That's all we get to know--not the title, not Tidwell's reason for soliciting money, not her previous work or lack thereof. The "About the Project" text appears to consist solely of the first few pages of the book, her survival-horror narrative's in medias res beginning.
     She took the phone call out in the hallway.
     “No names. It’s time. Are you okay?”
     “Yes. I’ll be taking the side roads.”
     “Good. Someone needs to be picked up. See you soon. Good luck.”
     Abby tapped her Bluetooth and disconnected. She stepped back into the locker room and cautiously peered around the corner. The office at the far end of the room had the curtains pulled shut tightly; she knew what that meant. She closed her eyes for a moment, saying a prayer, but only for a moment. It didn’t pay at all to be unobservant.
Two lines into this novel and I'm already confused. Who is talking? Who is listening? Who is the antecedent of that first word, she? I suppose it's Abby, but I don't learn that until four lines later. What's an office doing in a locker room? Not only does Tidwell make St. Louis look bad by not saying so much as please when she asks total strangers for money to write her novel, she can't write her way out of a locker-room. (My confusion about speakers and spatial relationships is almost enough to make me ignore the gratuitously adverbs and the product-placement. How sad is it when a brand name is the most vivid detail in a novel's opening?)

Not pictured: anything related to this new novel.

Furthermore, Tidwell has not bothered to supply us with an image that tells us anything about this novel. The above photo shows some old books, but look at the spines. These are reference books, not novels. The image gave me an idea: maybe the author had Googled some lazy phrase like "old books" and used one of the first few hits as the image for her Kickstarter page. So I tried it. I did a Google image search for keywords old and books, and the above image was the fourth hit.

I've seen Kickstarter pages that stunned me with their egregious writing, or their Hindenburg-explosions of fonts, or nine-minute promotional videos shot in mop closets, but I have never seen one that took less work and care.

26 March 2012

Echant with Christed Light

This Kickstarter project aims to launch a series of spiritually-instructive children's books featuring unicorns, talking birds, hay-varmints, and a barefoot white boy named Chadron. The first book, Rasazar an Enchanted Unicorn, "sets the stage for the next two books dealing with Christed Light, (Reiki), the calling of the Great Spirit and the dark side. In this book they will learn about such things as pink being the color of forgiveness and what unconditional love means and much more."

Chadron and Rasazar: BFFs.

"Christed Light" seems, on the basis of my cursory Internet research, to be a real thing--inasmuch as any New Age re-purposing of actual religious doctrines counts as a real thing. This video explains Christed light. I think.

Chadron gets lit.

But not all is Christed Light in our world, or the author's. She has faced major obstacles, including "the unforgiving illnesses of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder," which make me less inclined to dismiss this project as the ramblings of a kook, groping toward comforting, mystical solutions to the realities of mental illness and America's lack of a first-world-style government healthcare system. The project appears to be exactly that, which is why we should not dismiss it.

The author notes that "the reader will receive Chakra Color Therapy as they read and view the pages." This, too, appears to be a real thing. Something tells me that this book would make a great slideshow, especially if combined with psilocybin mushrooms and a beanbag chair, provided I could forget about the schizophrenia.

23 March 2012

Epic Abuse: Short Films

From now on, anytime I hear anyone use the word epic to describe something that isn't (A) a narrative poem (B) hundreds of pages long and (C) written in a lofty style (D) about heroes in the historic past, I will cough the word bullshit. If the inspiration is upon me, I will cough something like I hate that people who don't understand the words coming out of their own mouths are the engine of linguistic change, turning useful, specific terms into vague buzzwords.

An epic pile of dishes.

Then Patroclus said, "Achilles, son of Peleus, 
who in future story will speak well of you, 
unless we put away these dishes, washed
by fallen Argives? Lend me your towel, 
and I who am fresh might drive these plates 
back into the cupboard."

Calling a big pile of dishes epic is silly, but it's excusable, because dishwashing doesn't presuppose any narrative or artistic ambition. Nobody begins soaking last night's meatloaf pan with an invocation to the muses.

"Of knives and the sponge I sing..."

However, the making of art, and the making of a Kickstarter page to ask strangers for money to finish or to promote that art, does presuppose narrative or artistic ambition. You might think that people with such ambitions might be careful not call their bro-comedy films epic, and that they wouldn't call their self-described "short" films epic, either.

You would be wrong.

21 March 2012

The Vivian Girls: A Play with Music.

Admit it: you have been waiting for a musical about Henry Darger, too. If you donate to this Kickstarter project, you might just get to see and hear one.

Henry Darger was born in Illinois in 1892 and died in 1973. An orphan, he worked as a janitor and lived as a recluse during his long life, attending Catholic mass every day. After his death, his landlord discovered in Darger's apartment a cache of hundreds of paintings, journals, and manuscript narratives, including The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinnian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion, an illustrated prose narrative that ran over 15,000 pages.

By Darger standards, this is not even close to weird.

The video for the musical play's Kickstarter page runs too long (seven minutes), and the song lyrics muddy the creators' interviews, but let's not quibble. Henry Darger would have made a seven-hour Kickstarter video, starring only his mumbling self, featuring paintings of nude intersex children riding to war on butterfly space-dragons, set to music that he played on instruments made of tin he scrounged from garbage dumps. Then he would not have even uploaded it to the Internet, but instead left it for his landlord to find.

These artists are insiders, but let's not hold that against them.

This musical commemorates the work and life of a man who lived in a major city, in the most technologically advanced country on Earth (for its time), and who belonged to its dominant ethnic group (white), yet who had the ill fortune to lack the economic and cultural resources to channel his talents into normative routes like professional illustration, commercial writing, or high art. Help playwright Stacy Sims celebrate the work of this outsider.

19 March 2012

"Gods Word" or God sWord?

What is the evangelical Christian SCUBA enthusiast supposed to wear, secular SCUBA enthusiast t-shirts? Well, not anymore.

He hath loosed the fateful [bubbles] of His terrible swift [fonts]...

The examples of Breathe Life's designs that the video displays make me feel as if I ascended too rapidly and got the bends. According to the makers, "By wearing your Breathe Life Dive Wear shirt you will be fulfilling our mission by 'Spreading God’s Word, providing the Sword of the Spirit to carry out God’s plan.' We’re on a mission with a promise!" They don't tell us what the promise is, or what they plan to do with that sword.

I guess I'm not familiar with that translation.

In their video, they explain that they won't limit their designs to SCUBA diving, but will include "spear fishing, cave diving, snorkeling, and general water-related Scriptures for everyone." Jesus can be your spear-fishing buddy.

I will fear no eel-sharks.

Postscript: On second thought, I will fear eel-sharks. If there's one thing I learned from Leviathan (Cosmatos, 1989), it's that that eely thing is probably a Soviet "experiment that tampered with nature's most basic laws." (If there's two things I learned from Leviathan, the second is that a budget spent mostly on sets and lighting won't make your mash-up of Alien and John Carpenter's The Thing grow legs.)

And if there's one thing I learned from watching both Leviathan and Deepstar Six (Cunningham, also 1989), it's that each movie features one of the main actors from Robocop (Verhoven, 1987): in Leviathan, Peter Weller; in Deepstar Six, a scenery-chewing but still under-used Miguel Ferrer. Curiously, 1989's other deep-sea monster movie, The Abyss (Cameron), features no actors from Robocop. Where were you on that one, casting director Howard Feuer?

16 March 2012

...And in the basement bind them

I like that the author of Necromancer: Corruption demonstrates a knowledge of epic fantasy novels.

The other eight Nazgul want their rings back.

Many artists who use Kickstarter show a striking lack of interest in their chosen medium. It goes something like this:
I wrote a screenplay, but my coworkers said I should tun it into a sci-fi novel, so I did. My influences are Deep Space Nine, Farscrape, Battlestar Galactica and Firefly.

Here is my zombies comic book. I got the idea from riding the Mine Train ride at Six Flags in St. Louis at Halloween. If you love zombie movies then my comic is fo r you!!
Kevin "Necromansy" Cunningham (my nickname, not his) breaks with this sorry pattern. He declares, "I read through the Wheel of Time series, the Dark Elf Trilogy, and even classics like Lord of the Rings."

Even Lord of the Rings! I mean, R. A. Salvatore, sure, but Tolkein? He was probably dead before Necromancer was even born. That is dedication to the craft: reading books written by people who could not possibly autograph your copy.

14 March 2012

Zombie Wednesday: Zombie Brewing

I wanted to dislike this Kickstarter project. The text doesn't have a thing to do with zombies, so I thought, "Oh, somebody slapped the word 'zombie' on a thing to make people think it's edgy, cool, and 2005."

Try our new bacon steampunk cupcake.

After watching the video, I'm even less convinced that zombies are the best way to distinguish this brand. Why not name it for the neighborhood, or some distinguished person born there? Nevertheless, I want this backyard-brewery to succeed. They make dog treats out of some of their spent grain, and donate some of it to a horse farm!

A first: a zombie making scare-quotes.

Pledge money to Zombie Brewing, or the animate dead will frighten this dog.


12 March 2012

Perduellis, "a sci-fi action thiller book"

Ah, the failed screenplay that becomes a novel, that old staple of Kickstarter projects.

Stupid movie studios. What do they know?

Imagine how different our world would be if movie studios had had the wisdom to buy the screenplays The Man in the High Castle, The Left Hand of Darkness, and Dahlgren, rather than leaving their authors to pad them out into ACE Doubles. (To be fair, we didn't really have the special effects to do justice to The Man in the High Castle until the last ten years or so, but still.)

At least D. A. Karr understands the barriers she faces: "Because this is sci-fi and fiction, it's more difficult to sell then non-fiction." (Aspiring SF writers, take note: disguising your gender by using the old initials-only trick doesn't work if you include a detailed bio.)

Sci-fi or fiction? ...or both?

Originality is key when turning failed screenplays into novels, for as Karr points out, "There is only so many ways you can write about a spaceship that doesn't resemble 'Star Trek.'" You, aspiring writer of failed-screenplay-novels, must find this ways.

I know what you're thinking: "What model is a novelist supposed to use, if not Star Trek? I guess there's Space: 1999, but I can't even get that on Netflix instant-view! What am I supposed to do, spend all my free time chasing down obscure DVDs?"

Nobody said being a novelist would be easy.

09 March 2012

Laughing My Way Through Alzheimer's

Sometimes, the catalog speaks for itself:
There is nothing funny about caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia. OR IS THERE?

That was a rhetorical question.

07 March 2012

Galactic Biology 101: Slowly but Surly

This Kickstarter project opens with an unusual call not merely for backing, but for dissemination:

"Note; Everyone you could possbly know will want to see the video I have supplied for this presentation. Please share the link with everyone you can think of."

Said video* runs 16 minutes and 33 seconds, so you might want to read the text instead, though that isn't concise either. Allow KK to summarize: a conspiracy has deceived us regarding the nature of the Moon. Specifically, "The gray areas that NASA felt comfortable in leading you to believe was gray sand is actually dense growth comparable to forest here on Earth."

"Straight people don't know / what you're about."

In a helpful move that many other Kickstarter-ers would do well to imitate, the creator's biographer offers a remarkable means of verifying the creator's identity:
There is a more or less famous rock band that he has been into most of his adult life. The bands website has a forum. He has been a member there for a very long time. Everyone there knows who he is. Many have even been to his house.
If you go there and register, post a thread and ask the question of who he is, if he can be trusted, and if his mission is real. Sure, you will get some people who say what a weirdo he is being how he is so fanatical with his work, but, you won’t hear any bad things. That is of course, because he is a guy with impeccable character.

The bands name is called............’ Butthole Surfers’.
Sell your stock in NASA, readers, because it's about to fall through the floor.

"[Seymour], what does 'regret' mean?"

*At 9:51, we hear a sound that mainstream astronomers dismiss as terrestrial in origin, but that digital enhancement reveals to be the product of an alien ecosystem.

05 March 2012

Steampunk Blaster Gun Prop

At the risk of biting into one of Regretsy's signature moves, can someone tell me what is "steampunk" about Steampunk Blaster Gun Prop?

Not pictured: steampunk

I see neither 19th-century firearm design (bolt action, lever action, box magazine), nor indications of steam power (coal hoppers, valve gears, eccentric rods). Instead, I see a perforated heat-shield and bell-shaped flash suppressor, which appear to be inspired by the Maschinengewehr 34 that Nazi Germany used to terrorize Europe during World War II. (During this period, histories tell us, steam power had stopped being cool, but was not yet "retro.") Also, I see an ergonomic grip and a reflex sight, hallmarks of handgun design only since the 1970s. Finally, I see no "punk," whatever that would mean in firearm-design terms. (A magazine held on by safety pins? Spiky day-glo iron sights?)

Could it be that an artist has used the word "steampunk" without thinking hard about what it means?

The goggles steam you, but the spats punk you.

And why call it a "prop"? Was there a danger I might think it was a real Steampunk Blaster Gun? Or is it a prop within the fiction of the artist's cosplay?

That is, does his real-life steampunk circle don spats and tank tops and knee pads, get into character, and then engage in meta-cosplay about a future driven by electricity and atomic power? Does Phineas T. Cogbottom, Leftenant in Her Majesty's Aërial Dragoons, spend his R&R pretending to be Frank "Rocket" Franklin, 1937 Heisman Trophy winner and leader of the band of Earthlings standing between our planet and the evil Conqueror Liu's fleet of atom-powered Jet Auk-Men? Does Cogbottom dream of a future of vacuum tubes and ergonomic handles?

<Sydow> Pathetic Earthlings. Hurling your [cosplayers] out into the void... </Sydow>

02 March 2012

Poetic Shadows: Whispers from the Darkness

I confess: The the photo in this Kickstarter project got my attention.

"...I've got flowers and lots of hours / to spend with you..."

Blurry though she is, I can't say no to Tura Satana eyes, black-metal jewelry, or corpse-white décolletage. In this instance, the photo's constellation of features even led me to read, with sympathy, this pitch from the poet:
Best way to describe my reasoning is I have a huge love for poetry. Poetry has always been a dream of mine to have my own thoughts and feelings put into a book... for all to enjoy. There are many emotions and dark feelings that i have put into my poems, and I would like the world to realize that poetry is a way of letting your feelings and emotions out, I want to give the world the gift of poetry.
A sample of that poetry, from "Eyes Ablazed":
Into your soul I will gaze
through endless tears and eyes ablaze

to feel you tremble beneath my finger tips
and taste your blood upon my lips.
Oof. Well, maybe there's hope, I thought. Half a dozen literature classes at the community college, Paul Fussell's Poetic Meter and Poetic Form, and a poetry workshop or two might channel her "feelings" into something other people want to read.

However, as I scrolled down the page, I was in for another disappointment.

"Sheena was a man."
Like Tom Jones said, I can't get no satisfaction.

01 March 2012

The End: Actually the Pilot

It's sad that all it takes to distinguish a zombie-apocalypse indie-film Kickstarter project is simply to have a woman do the talking. Goateed white boys so saturate the field that simply having a representative who is not a goateed white boy counts as innovation.

You can, Rosie. That doesn't mean you should.

While a female mouthpiece might count as innovation, a first-person video log of a zombie apocalypse does not. There's this obscure indie director named George Romero who has already done that. (Aspiring filmmakers, please write that down. With some luck, you might be able to find one of his videos at your local video store or flea market.)

I hope that if there is a real zombie apocalypse, the animate dead start by eating any white boys they see holding video cameras.

29 February 2012

The Brass Legionnaire

I didn't know the world needed a Roman steampunk novel until I saw those goggles on that galea.

Put a cog on it!

I can't decide if this author has put a "roman helmet" on steampunk, or if the author has put "steampunk goggles" on ancient Rome.

I'll tell you what else the world needs: it needs for The Brass Legionnaire to spawn a massively successful run of sequels and movie adaptations, so I can sell my high-concept adult parody, The Ass Legionnaire, to a porn studio in the San Fernando Valley--where I will then build a sprawling villa in the Roman steampunk style. (I've already received bids on my Coriolanus-inspired porn script, and I didn't even have to change the name.)

The future's so bright, I gotta wear steampunk goggles.

27 February 2012

Eye People

Eye People. The name alone hints at mystery, wonder, even terror. Let us learn of them from their creator. His written description is brief, so I will include it here in its entirety:

"Eye People, are cartoon characters, they are based on People that have a head like an Eyeballs. They have funny sayings and are very fun characters to have in your life! They participate in every sport you can think of, can be found on all kinds of balls, pucks, toys, or clothes, just about anything you can think of ! Eye People will take over the world!"

The only way to stop Eye People is to hide your eyes from them.

This "Comics project" fills me with a vague dread. Eye People's ubiquity, their unblinking gaze, and their seeming lack of anything to do with comics--these traits combine into something out of a nightmare, the Calvin-peeing-on-stuff of a diseased unconscious. Eye People don't have to defile things with their waste: they just watch you... or do they only plan to watch? Might they not have other plans for us?

"Sometimes that [Eye People], he looks right into you. Right into your eyes."

Furthermore, Eye People break down the distinction between singular and plural. Pledge $10 and the creator promises you "a signed copy of an Eye People !" However, the panoptic gaze of Eye People will surveil you whether or not you pledge.

You have already pledged to Eye People.

24 February 2012

" 'The Phantom Bride' A ghost story short film."

It's a film project by Marc Hudson!

Bride... or phantom bride?

Oops--it's actually not Marc Hudson, the new singer for Dragonforce. It's Marc Hudson, the actor-writer-director, the one making a movie wherein "A group of teenagers reminisce on an old ghost story where a Bride, ditched at the altar, murders her ex-fiance and his new lover before taking her on life."

The Bride taking on the new lover after killing her does sound creepy. Or something.

This part I get: "Annoyingly a film is expensive to make, especially a good one! It's amazing how some things, even so little can add up in expense. For example location insurance is easily overlooked but is required by law and can cost thousands of dollars." Annoyingly comma indeed exclamation point.

"Oh, hi Marc."

In their promotional video, the director and his assistant director explain their intention to make an "old-fashioned"  and "classic" ghost story, inspired by the likes of The Sixth Sense (1999) and The Others (2001). These citations scare me more than any ghost. If you want to make your ghost movie sound old-fashioned, there are better titles to drop--The Uninvited (1945), Dead of Night (1945), The Innocents (1961), Carnival of Souls (1962), Kwaidan (1964), even The Shining or The Fog (both 1980)--but to drop those titles, you first have to know that they exist. Dare I voice my fear that the writer-director lacks adequate knowledge of the ghost-movie-makers who have ventured into this cemetery before him? Damn me for a pedant, but I think artists should know about other works in their favored medium, including works created before they were even born.

Speaking of scary, the immediate inspiration for this film came to Hudson during a trip on the Phantom Manor ride at Disneyland Paris (during which, I like to imagine, his fiancee dumped him for a certain other Englishman with even more magnificent hair).

23 February 2012


The creator of JammerUp calls it "an abstract strategy board game modeled after the rules and strategies of modern roller derby."

I love the board's elegance, which puts me in mind of a hybrid of Go and Formula DE. I would play this; I might even buy this.

However, I find something... missing.

At the risk of alienating women and dedicated players of abstract strategy board games, what interests me most about roller derby is not the tactical and strategic thought it demands of players and spectators, nor is it the following of players' careers from team to team, match to match. It's watching sturdy young women in short-shorts knock each other around.

I'm not sure I could stay focused on those glass beads, but I did pledge money toward the game.

22 February 2012

Zombie Wednesday: this is going to be the real thing, not infomercial.

Finally, somebody is making a guide to surviving a zombie apocalypse. I wish I'd thought of something like this ten years ago. Imagine how different our pop-cultural landscape would be today!

"Hi. I'm Simon Pegg, and I fight zombies, but not in this movie.
Furthermore, I did not approve this use of my likeness."

Pros: The FN-FAL rifle, pictured above, always looks cool, and reminds me of 1970s Doctor Who, since UNIT soldiers used the FN-FAL. (<Brigadier> Pegg! Chap with the bloody chin there. Five rounds rapid. </Brigadier>) However, it's only cool if you actually take the trouble to obtain the prop rifle, and take your own photo of it for your Kickstarter page; copping a still from another movie doesn't count.

Cons: the FN-FAL is overkill for a zombie scenario. Assuming that a head-shot is sufficient to take down the shambling undead, any flat-shooting caliber gets the job done. Why would you punish your shoulder with the recoil of a 7.62 x 51 NATO (or .308 Winchester) when a .22 WMR will do, and the widely available .223 Remington is more than enough? If the creator's implied advice regarding firearms is any indication of the quality of the rest of the advice in this "guide," I'm dubious.


For what it's worth, we have the creator's assurance that the project is grounded in reality: "I promise you that this is going to be the real thing, not infomercial, It's going to be real life scenarios where the zombie apocalypse comes to life. This is the Directors Reel, for a special look at what you can espect."

Sadly, and contrary to espectation, the link to the Director's Reel remains broken at the time of writing.

21 February 2012

Zombie Rubs

Hurry! Pledge money for Zombie Rubs!

"People everywhere were consuming lifeless meat which lacked flavor and was devoid of nutrients. It was that lack of taste and nutrition which made so many people susceptible to the spreading plague."

You won't hear me calling for new zombie-related works in any medium, but I love this campaign's combination of zombie tropes and foodie discourse. I'd be surprised if they met their goal, but then again, I'm stunned that more people haven't donated.

20 February 2012

10 Book Series: Luke Banderloft and The McFarven Pirates

I'm not optimistic about this ten-novel fantasy series. Its author, Rocky Perry, describes it: "The books are a mix of Pirates of the Carabean and The Neverending Story.  If you loved them, you will love these books. " 

I doubt it. Pirates of the Carabean [sic] and The Neverending Story are movies, and what we like about novels and what we like about movies are not the same. (I suppose Rocky might be referring to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland, which inspired the movie of the same name, or referring to the novel Die unendliche Geschichte, which inspired the Neverending Story movie.) And since a Kickstarter description is an indication of a writer's attention to his craft, the misspelling, the lack of italics for the titles, and the two spaces after each period don't inspire the greatest confidence. (I realize that this is why publishing houses hire editors and typesetters, but even so: look your best when you put your hand out, people.)

The novels are set in Quephter*, Rocky's open-source fantasy role-playing game setting. I know you shouldn't judge a book by its open-source fantasy RPG setting cover, but we don't have much to go on here, and the art for Quephter cops the lamentable style of Wizards of the Coast's third edition of Dungeons & Dragons. Compromise facial-hair? Check. Conspicuous piercing? Check. "Tribal" tatoo? Check. Gym-rat wish-fulfillment physique? Check. This aesthetic was lame in 2000, and it hasn't improved with age. (Though for all I know, it still sells.)

Haters gonna hate.

Despite all this, the video for Rocky's project moves me. The child squealing in the background and Rocky's mention of Walmart remind me that the future looks bleak for non-Waltons in the right-to-work (for less) state of Georgia. Rocky asks prospective donors only for "the price of a taco" from Taco Bell, and this makes me wonder, Will Rocky's child have to work at Taco Bell when he or she grows up? Neoliberal "competition" means that the worker in one-party China now gets a manufacturing job (under working conditions like those that obtained in the US before organized labor changed them), while the worker in the US gets a job cleaning deep-fryers, priced out of "public" universities--which increasingly train for white-collar jobs that are easier to find in Dubai than in US cities.

Rocky has my sympathy. His books do not.

*I insist on pronouncing that first E as a long E.

17 February 2012

Funded: The Blood and the Life

"A wash of pain ransacked Jesus’ face as he raised his eyes toward the [computer monitor]."

"Once upon a time, a man was attacked by a vampire bat..."
How can a new twist on vampires fail? Vampires, to paraphrase John Lennon, are more popular than Jesus. Throw Jesus Himself into the mix, and the idea is too big to fail.

OK, I'll grant that the notion of Jesus' blood turning people into vampires might actually be grounds for such a project to fail. Then again, the idea of abstinence vampires seems like it should have died on its way to the publisher, so what do I know?

I'm going to start planning that Blade/Jesus/Blacula slash-fiction project that I've been thinking about planning, Scream Christula Scream! If Vampire Jesus becomes the next horror icon, I will be ready to sign my book deal.

Actually, in the spirit of Kickstarter self-publishers, I'm going to start working on my the pitch to movie producers first. ("I imagine at least two sequels...")

16 February 2012

Truth in Advertising: Virus Man

Here's how you get me to pay attention to your Kickstarter campaign: tell me that you need the money to fund "female nudity" in your exploitation movie. (He's already got comics artist Gary Wray.)

We all know that's how exploitation filmmaking works: give the audience cheap thrills, but charge full price. However, even cheap thrills cost money, and the savvy actress will not doff her clothes for a prison-yard mud-wrestling match for free.

(True story: my aunt worked for Troma as a location scout in the eighties, and during the shooting of The Class of Nuke 'Em High, Lloyd Kaufman asked her to explain to the female lead that said lead would have to take her top off in the next scene, but wouldn't be getting paid any more for her trouble.)

So I salute Charles H. Del Rio for his candor. Let's hope Virus Man gets its nudity budget, and goes virus-al.

15 February 2012

Zombie Wednesday: voice-mails I left after watching the Kickstarter video for Dead Fury: Survival

<anonymous tip voice> Hello, Jean-Luc Godard? I've found all those jump cuts you misplaced while you were making Breathless. It appears that some guys in Utah found them, and have used every last one in a video to promote their zombie-survival movie. Who I am isn't important. Just think of me as... un ami. </anonymous tip voice>

"They're coming to get you, Barbara Michel."

<anonymous tip voice> Hello, Shaggy? Some video-editor in Utah has copped your style. Also, if you know anybody who's holding, tell them to meet me at the gelato place on South Grand tomorrow at three. I just need like a dime to hold me over til my cousin gets back from Oregon. </anonymous tip voice>

"Zoinks! Like, not another low-budget zombie movie by white boys!"

<undisguised voice> Hello, George Romero? As much as I love your movies, sometimes I wish your parents had never even met. </undisguised voice>