In Case You Want to Misbehave

A lot of my efforts these past few months have been working on building the audience for Jabberwocky Audio Theater. Frankly, a great way to do that is with a giveaway.

As recipients of the JAT Mailing List know, JAT is running a second giveaway during this “pledge drive period” between our seasons.

This time, we’re focusing on Firefly, which more than a few listeners have compared my space opera, Rogue Tyger to. What can I say? Tarnished knight characters make great spaceship captains.

The giveaway runs until tomorrow, February 19th, so there’s still time to enter if that is your aim.

Choose Your Own Theater Adventure

I’ve enjoyed more interactive theater for a long time, whether it’s traditional audience response (applause/boos/hisses) or more modern breaking of the fourth wall or simply the immediacy of staging a show “in the round.”

I’ve often thought about staging a play for our local Fringe festival whose outcome is decided by the audience… perhaps after they’ve weighed in on several decision points.

I thought about those ideas again when I read a piece by Alysia Judge from the Guardian about Felix Barrett and his company Punchdrunk. Their form of theater is often site-specific, non-linear, and immersive. In fact, it sounds kind of like a limited LARP or other character-driven game (board or video) that isn’t completely open-ended.

Resisting the urge to have this be another new project (I have one that’s taking more than enough time, thank you) and remembering that not every interest needs to be another side hustle, I hope to attend a show one of these days. It feels like something that will only grow in popularity.

We’re All Mad Marketers Here

Alice in Wonderland Giveaway
Mondays make perfect unbirthdays!

While this is really more of a Team Jabberwocky thing, specifically Jabberwocky Audio Theater, it’s time to put on my marketing hat which is, by its very nature, mad!

Regular readers may recall that we did a Doctor Who giveaway last year and we’ll do a few more this year: all to help build an audience for Jabberwocky Audio Theater. You may also remember that I’ve occasionally mentioned the work of Russell Nohelty on behalf of indie authors and creators.

Well, one of the best way that I keep finding recommended by Russell and others is for indie creators is to build up one’s own mailing list. It’s an essential part of one’s marketing ecosystem.

Prize Package

What’s a good way to build up one’s mailing list? A giveaway! So to that end, I, thereby Jabberwocky Audio Theater, have teamed up with a bunch of other indie creators to give one lucky person an Alice in Wonderland prize package.

I have to say that picking out the goodies that went with this was tremendous fun… and I’m kind of eyeing that chess set now (see below). So just like Alice trying a few potions, I hope a bunch of you will try for your chance at a few of these impossible things before breakfast. Worse case scenario: you’ll learn about a whole bunch of wacky fantastical creative works. Just don’t be late! The giveaway ends February 8th.

More Alice in Wonderland goodies.

Real Princesses Roll for Initiative

If your 2019 has been bereft of geeky, geeky mashups thus far, have we got the video for you! Behold: nearly all the Disney princesses playing D&D (with Belle as DM, which just makes sense).

In case you not only like it, but love it, they apparently have a crowdfunding campaign going through February.

This Year, Resolve to Make Art

I thought I had already posted this article by Sean Kane from 2016, but evidently I hadn’t. So go ahead and read up on seven darn good scientifically-backed reasons why you should make art even if you’re not “any good” at it.

A perfect example of simply making art is Inktober, an annual event to do an ink drawing every day during October. I did this with my son –and moms and dads reading this, that’s reason enough to give it a go. Because while I tried things with shading and perspective that were hit or miss, he developed recurring story elements in the scenes he drew throughout the month that was a delight to witness (and on a parental note, it was a good transition to bedtime).

So go ahead, get your art on, whatever way you want to. You don’t need to share it with anyone. Science has your back.

I, for one, don’t welcome our net ‘bot overlords…

Though from reading Max Read’s piece in New York magazine, it’s kind of moot whether I welcome them or not: a huge portion of the Internet is fake.

I mean, it’s not that it’s a huge surprise that the Internet is full of automation to simulate traffic for ad revenue purposes, engage people for some Machiavellian monetization motives, or otherwise amplify some ill-conceived echo chambers…

But it’s depressing to have it validated to such a hefty degree.

Perhaps you, like me, remember those days pre-Netscape Navigator, exploring the Internet universe via Gopher and the like. The possibilities seemed as vast as Pangea, which is an accurate extrapolation of how long ago it was in Internet terms.

Will we survive an inversion when ‘bots outnumber us all? I don’t know. I just know that, Even now, spam bots are getting ready to comment on this post.

All that Glitters is not Gold

The stuff of dreams and nightmares (photo from Chris Maggio for The New York Times)

You’re just going to have to trust me on this one: go read Caity Weaver’s in-depth exploration on the history of glitter. You’ll get caught up in it much like glitter grabs ahold of you and never lets go.

After a 21-year Pause, More Art Enters Public Domain

2019 will bring many things, both planned and unplanned… but one of the planned events is one I had forgotten until people started circulating an article from the Smithsonian magazine by Glenn Fleishman: a mass of copyrights is expiring putting books, poems, music, films, and other art into the public domain.

This is very exciting, and not just because Jabberwocky Audio Theater will happily adapt 1920s sci-fi and adventure material as it did from H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds, long in public domain. No, this means a lot of works which haven’t been distributed and shared widely can and will be, allowing countless people the opportunity to experience the art anew. As the one article says, it’ll be like a yearly time capsule.

In addition, NPR did a brief piece about the coming mass expiration and Lifehacker has a list of some of the more prominent works that will be in the public domain. I suppose “expiration” has a bit too negative connotation, so let’s call it an artistic explosion.

Now I have another reason to be excited for January 1st every year.

The Bookstore is Dead. Long Live the Bookstore!

One of the biggest issues plaguing independent entrepreneurial creators (authors, artists, filmmakers, etc.) would be how to find an audience — and even if that nut is well and truly cracked: how do you maintain or even grow it?

That’s a topic for many another post, but amid forums and social media I follow where people discuss the topic, there’s the inevitable discussion of what Faustian bargain should be made with Amazon, the everything store that wants to be your alpha and omega. I was reminded of that when I came across this Axios article from October musing about the slide of Barnes & Noble.

It’s all the more interesting because independent bookstores have apparently made a resurgence, as per articles found on NPR, CBS, and a huge compilation of articles on the American Booksellers Association page (an interested party to be sure, but still…).

My 50 Favorite Films, 2018 Edition

It feels like it’s been too long, but really, it’s only been two years since my last 50 Favorite Films. This is my biennial tradition that, honestly, I’ve been doing offline for about 30 years, but now is available for online navel gazing. You can check out the 2012, 2014, and 2016 editions should you care to. For those who are interesting in how I sort films based on criteria of quality, watchability, and personal resonance, I have a post about that too.

This year I went through over 570 films in the sort, though importantly, I did not bother to do a detailed sort of all of the films, just what turned out to be about the top 100 or so. That saved tremendous time.

All the films sorted with the top 50 in the stack on the right.

Boy howdy was there a sea change in the ranking versus 2016. No less than 19 films in the Favorite 50 were not in the 2016 edition. Pretty much all of the “new” arrivals have been in the sort before and many have been in the top 50 before… and then there was the shakeup to the top 10 itself.

I always knew you’d come back one day…

Hush! I don’t want any spoilers. I do, however, have some ground rules: 

  1. These must be feature films (narrative or documentary). Short films aren’t included.
  2. Film series or franchises do not count as one entry. Each must fend for itself.
  3. TV movies can be included (I don’t think any are in the top 50)
  4. TV mini-series are not included.
  5. Regular TV series are right out.
  6. These are my favorite films, not a “best of.” If anyone else entirely agrees with my list, one of the two of us is an evil doppelganger/replicant/host.
  7. There is no rule # 7.

Not stated in the ground rules is the obvious note that this list, like all subjective lists, is incredibly well-reasoned. So, without further ado, counting down from 50:

50) Die Hard
49) A Few Good Men
48) The Namesake
47) Memento
46) Heat
45) Breaker Morant
44) The Godfather, Part II
43) The Bridge on the River Kwai
42) Aliens
41) The Incredibles
40) Big Fish
39) The Court Jester
38) Midnight Run
37) Never Cry Wolf
36) Galaxy Quest
35) The Count of Monte Cristo
34) Minority Report
33) Star Wars
32) Arrival
31) The Princess Bride
30) Citizen Kane
29) The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
28) The Lives of Others
27) Sullivan’s Travels
26) Airplane!
25) Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
24) To Kill a Mockingbird
23) Cinema Paradiso
22) Sense and Sensibility
21) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
20) Saving Private Ryan
19) North by Northwest
18) Rob Roy
17) Unforgiven
16) Children of Men
15) The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
14) Das Boot
13) The Shawshank Redemption
12) Field of Dreams
11) Once Upon a Time in the West
10) 2010
9) The Empire Strikes Back
8) Singin’ in the Rain
7) Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World
6) Black Hawk Down
5) The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
4) Schindler’s List
3) Casablanca
2) Ran         
1) Raiders of the Lost Ark    

And, as before, here are some…

Basic Stats (note: genres overlap, based on IMDb genres)

  • Total Comedies: 7
  • Total Dramas: 23
  • Total Action-Adventure Films: 23
  • Total Sci-Fi/Fantasy Films: 18
  • Total Westerns: 2
  • Total War Movies: 17
  • Total Musicals: 2
  • Total Animated Films: 1
  • Total films with Liam Neeson: 2
  • Mean average year of the 50 films (rounded up): 1986
  • Decade with the most favorites: 1980s (15 films), followed closely by the 2000s (13 films)
  • The film at #51 which at least one reader will insist should rank higher: Edge of Tomorrow

Viscerally, it feels like a huge shake-up — and seeing it laid out makes me realize a few things…

It’s an altogether grimmer list
There are less comedies, less animated films, and less musicals. Yes, those last two categories aren’t always lighter fare, but the musicals and animated films that left the list definitely were. There’s more war films on the list — I even have two military courtroom dramas for crying out loud! (That’s A Few Good Men & Breaker Morant, for those keeping score at home.) Just about every film in the top 10 either has war either overtly throughout or peeking obtrusively around the corner. Well, except for…

Singin’ in the Rain
My #1 film since at least 2008. It had a good run. Maybe it’ll return, but when we got to that part of the sort, I just knew it wasn’t going to claim the top spot this year. Instead, that distinction went to a film that hasn’t claimed that spot since it was first in theaters in 1981.

An Adventure for the Ages
I mean, Raiders has been a favorite since ’81 (along with many other great films from the year. Seriously, check out some of the top-grossing ones that were in theaters in 1981. It was a good year. It could be that I’m busy writing adventure stories myself and it could be it scratches that itch many of us are feeling of late to see Nazis punched, but regardless, it’s a rattlin’ good yarn.

I noted a few other trends or tendencies. While the top 50 remained at the average year of 1986, the top 100 averages to 1989. I’m pretty sure my favorites are getting newer overall.

I’m thinking that many a film is played out for me. This isn’t unprecedented as I noticed that with music ages ago. Some films may still be just as objectively good, but I’m not getting as much as I once did on repeated viewings. It’s also the best reason I have for Rogue One thundering in ahead of the original Star Wars. (The next highest film new to the sort was Spotlight, which came in at #55). Franchise films also did not fare as dismally as they did in 2016, though I noted the Marvel films did not do well (Guardians of the Galaxy did the best at #61).

So, there it is. A fun list… that hopefully has a couple titles you’ll want to watch or re-watch. For 2020, I’m probably going to see which of IMDb’s “top 250” I haven’t seen or haven’t rewatched in a while as well as whatever else filmmaker friends recommend. Happy Boxing Day! Hope you’re spending some of the next week in a cinema watching a damn fine film or two.