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Monday Linkspam

The Tonys were held Sunday night, and I am pleased to announce that Edwardsville native Laurie Metcalf won best actress for A Doll’s House Part 2 - a production I did not know existed, but intrigues me. Trivia note: the Metcalf Theater on the campus of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville is named after her father, James Metcalf. Laurie Metcalf is a founding member of Steppenwolf Theater, along with John Malkovich, Gary Sinise and others. Metcalf’s win “surprised no one,” according to the New York Times.

It’s no huge surprise that Bette Midler won best lead actress in a musical, since she’s been knocking down the walls in the revival of Hello, Dolly. Best line of the night was from her (apparently quite long) acceptance speech: “I’d like to thank all the Tony voters, many of whom I’ve actually dated.” — Bette Midler


Puttin' on the Ritz


Dear Evan Hansen won best new musical, an “unflinching” look at grief and loneliness about a high school student who insinuates himself into the family of a classmate who has killed himself. It also picked up best lead actor for Ben Platt.

Best play went to Oslo, set behind the scenes of the 1993 Middle East peace accords. It defeated A Doll’s House Part 2, which follows Nora’s return to face the consequences of her decision at the end of the classic Ibsen play. Two others up for best play - Sweat by Lynn Nottage and Indecent by Paula Vogel - were penned by Pulitzer winners, so competition was fierce. Cynthia Nixon won best featured actress for The Little Foxes; look for her in an intriguing biopic of Emily Dickinson titled A Quiet Passion, which was allegedly released in April, but I have yet to see it in local theaters.

Oh, and Kevin Kline picked up another Tony for a Noel Coward piece, speaking of surprising no one. But best revival went to Jitney by August Wilson. Full details at the New York Times.


• Congratulations to author Michael Knost for receiving the JUG Award (Just Uncommonly Good) from the West Virginia Writers organization this weekend.

RIP Adam West, who died on Friday of cancer. There was much mourning on social media, with remembrances of him as a good and decent fellow who came to terms with his typecasting as the tongue-in-cheek cheesy TV Batman.


Go on, sniffle. I'll wait.



• Steven Moffat reminds us all why we’re glad to see him go, as he tells io9 he never cast a woman as the Doctor because it never popped into his head, and of course the first idea that pops into your head is always the best one, right? Or as author Nicholas Kaufmann said, “The lesson here, apparently, is that if it takes even a smidgen of thought or effort, it isn’t worth doing.” My favorite is when Moffat insists he’s not misogynist because he’s “to the left of a lot of my detractors,” as though a liberal can’t be sexist. 

Moffat can insist all the time that he’s not sexist, but I threw the remote across the room and stopped watching the show after River Song declared in mid-regeneration, “Shhh, I’m concentrating on a dress size.” I’ve since caught up to the beginning of Capaldi, and I suppose I shall have to watch the rest in preparation for the next era. But good lord, am I tired of this trope that making a woman or a person of color a central character of any franchise is “a forced political choice” or “political correctness run amok.” I've read far too many comments insisting that they should never make the Doctor a woman "just because." Perhaps instead these showrunners (and the fans) could consider that women are 50 percent of the human population, and there are a very large number of human beings of any gender who are not white? That’s not political correctness, that’s math.

• And RIP Glenne Headly, best known to me as Tess Trueheart in the 1980s Dick Tracy. She was only 62 years old, and had built a strong career on TV shows like Monk, ER and films like Mr. Holland’s Opus as well as Dick Tracy. Maybe it’s just because I was a kid then, but she’ll always be Tess to me.


Tess Trueheart

The Black Panther trailer has dropped. You know, I’m just gonna let you go see it. It speaks for itself pretty well. And because it is a day ending in Y, some people are upset about it. How many remains to be seen, but since the general reaction has been, “Oh, there aren’t THAT many racists in America, Marvel is just trying to stir controversy,” and Disney wouldn’t support anything dark, controversial or violent,” my facepalm is reaching epic proportions. (Note: Disney /= animated fairytales only. I can’t believe I have to keep saying this.) FYI, if you want to know if there are really racists upset about this, look no further than the comments section on pretty much any article about it. Better yet, check out Denny Upkins’ look at Shuri…. and, sadly, see that Marvel has canceled World of Wakanda less than 48 hours after the trailer blew up the internet. Seriously??

• Here on the local scene, Dance St. Louis has announced its 2017-18 season with new artistic consultant Terence Marling. This year’s season includes Chicago at the Fox, The Nutcracker at Touhill Performing Arts Center, TAP Dynamics at the Grandel and more. Find out more at Dance St. Louis’ website.

East St. Louis Poet Laureate Eugene Redmond and his daughter, poet and educator Treasure Shields Redmond, will deliver readings and performances in “Black Joy in the Mourning” at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation on Thursday, June 22 at 7 p.m. They will include a discussion of many influences on their work, including Miles Davis, the 1917 East St. Louis riots, migration, and the south.

And the BND is running the annual Readers’ Choice Awards, so click here to fill out your ballot! (It’s early on, so you may have to nominate some of your favorites.)

Thursday Linkspam

• This year’s WWDC conference had a bunch of gifts for Apple fans. Business Insider has an interesting analysis: instead of flashy new projects (though there are a few of those), Apple is laying out a strategy for the next 10 years. Personally I don’t care about the iWatch or augmented reality. The HomePod interests me much more, as a lifelong Apple user with a full-house Apple system. MacOS and iOS updates, App Store update, lots of other toys (and an iMac Pro that makes me long for the budget to acquire a $5,000 desktop). Wired hits the highlights so you don’t have to watch all two hours of the presentation. I cannot confirm or deny that I may have done precisely that, while fast-forwarding through the iWatch and the deep-dive programmer stuff. 

Wonder Woman is the gift that keeps on giving. Did you know Gal Gadot did reshoots while five months pregnant? Enjoy some hilarious Tweets. Bustle explains why women are crying during the fight scenes - I didn’t, but it’s been explained that I’m heartless. More love for General Buttercup - er, Antiope. EW lists some suggested comics, but doesn’t include Trinity, so I can’t take it too seriously. io9 wisely wonders why Patty Jenkins isn’t contracted to a sequel yet when David Ayer was signed for one after making the disastrous Suicide Squad. Connie Nielsen and Robin Wright are confirmed for Justice League. Mashable takes a look at the Diana-Steve romance and how well it works. And enjoy these nifty posters.

• Lest we forget that badass women have been in movies/TV before without getting their credit, the Mary Sue takes a new look at Evie of the Mummy movies - at least, the ones who count. I have a whole rant on the O’Connells as a model for romantic partnership… and compiling those Wikipedia links now makes me want to watch all those movies again. I already knew the new Mummy movie couldn’t hold a candle to those, but its prospects look even worse than that. I almost feel sorry for Tom Cruise… But not all the reviews are bad.

• Speaking of sequels, Mary Poppins Returns is on its way, with Emily Blunt taking the not-inconsiderable task of following in Julie Andrew’s practically-perfect-in-every-way bootsteps. Lin-Manuel Miranda takes up the lamplighter’s role (and if there is no cameo by Dick Van Dyke, I will personally march on Main Street, I swear by my magic umbrella). I’m actually hopeful about this one; from the looks of it, the only person who wouldn’t like it would be P.L. Travers.

• Romance is alive! Well, in a dark and twisted kind of way. Batman proposed to Catwoman (again) in the latest Batman issue as part of the DC Rebirth. Somehow I doubt they will live happily ever after, since this is comics and ol’ Bruce has… issues. (See what I did there?) Mazel tov, Bruce and Selina. For now.

• I have quite enjoyed watching Luke Cage the past week and a half, binging it in several sessions while the characters troll each other on Twitter. CBR has a rundown on what did and didn’t work, and halfway I agree, but with several quibbles. I disagree that the series was too long and dialed back “because it’s still a Disney property”; uh, guys? Did you actually watch Jessica Jones with the running theme of mental (and physical) rape? Dialed back my ass.


I also strongly disagree that Mike Colter’s acting was a problem, though they’re dead-on about the inconsistency of Luke’s romances. He refuses a phone number from a nice, attractive woman he knows, then has a one-night stand with a total stranger, which then dissipates into thin air so he can romance Claire the Omnipresent Nurse, and did we all forget future wife Jessica Jones? Luke as a ladies’ man or Luke as grieving widower eschewing close relationships or Luke as serial monogamist - oh, make up your minds.

The music was actually hit or miss with me, but I fully recognize that my eclectic taste in music is not that of the wider world. Also: The only episode that didn’t work for me was the finale. The beatdown in the street with cops holding back the crowd was a tad too Lethal Weapon-dumb for me.

I’d really like to skip Iron Fist, though. Can I have two Jessica Jones and wait for the next season?

• Rest in peace, theater designer Mark Wilson. Wilson’s designs were seen at the Repertory Theater of St. Louis, Shakespeare Festival, St. Louis Actors’ Studio, Shakespeare in the Streets, Opera Theater of St. Louis and many others. If you saw a theatrical performance in St. Louis in recent years, odds are good you saw a Wilson design. He died last week in a tractor accident, and this year’s Shakespeare Festival run is dedicated to his memory.

• For locals here in the sunny metro-east, it looks to be a big weekend! There’s the Glen Carbon Homecoming and the Route 66 Festival. If I may be permitted a moment of self-indulgence, I will be signing at Afterwords Books in Edwardsville on Saturday along with eight other authors as part of the Blue Corridor Route 66 celebration. No, my work has nothing to do with Route 66, but I live here, so shut it.

In addition, U2 is coming to town. Troy is playing Rogue One with plenty of Star Wars fun (including lightsaber giveaways and demonstrations, free hot dogs, and more) in Tri-Township Park. Thunderbirds are go at Scott Air Force Base. And the Shakespeare Festival’s Winter’s Tale is rolling.

• Finally, look at some lovely images of Central Park shot by a New Jersey photographer with terrible insomnia. It’s like something from another time.

Monday Linkspam

Welcome to a mega-edition of CultureGeek Linkspam, since we took Memorial Day-Week off. What? There were brats to grill.

• Apple Computer held its WWDC keynote today, announcing a number of fun stuff. Among them: Amazon Prime finally comes to Apple TV; the older iMac model gets a boost and they premiered a new iMac Pro; the HomePod; software updates…. oh, just read it.

• A review of Wonder Woman is pending after a rewatch. In the meantime, it’s a clear hit, with more than $100 million domestic and another $125+ million foreign in the first weekend alone. Critics like it too. It’s the biggest opening for a female director ever, and I take some special notice that the record it obliterated belonged to Fifty Shades of Grey. Heh. Actual athletes were recruited to play the Amazons, including Crossfit champions, cyclists, equestriennes and professional fighters.’s Keith DeCandido looks back at Lynda Carter as role model. Indian Country Today celebrates an actual Native American actor speaking actual Blackfoot to Wonder Woman in the film. And of course there is a sequel already planned: in America. I’d ask y’all to name her potential villain(s), but maybe we shouldn’t go there… Texts From Superheroes says hello to WW, and Thor admits Wonder Woman would kick his ass. (P.S. Check out this vision of Mr. Rogers wielding Thor’s hammer. No, seriously.)

• Since everything old is new again, Steven Spielberg’s production company is reviving the Animaniacs. This is good news if you were a fan; I was not, but I did not have the outright dislike of the show as I did, say, Rugrats. The article does point out that shows as old as Full House were quite popular in resurrection, and now we are seeing Will & Grace and Roseanne return, among others. Yes, Hollywood has run out of ideas, but zombie series of good work is still better than *shudder* reality TV.

• Speaking of the return of the ‘90s, Zima is back. For a limited time only. Yikes.

• In commemoration of the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie (which CultureGeek Jr. gave enormous applause and the critics… disagree), check out the pictures and radio commercial of the 1967 launch of the Disneyland ride. Yo ho yo ho…. Yes, your friendly neighborhood CultureGeek has seen it and a review is pending. Y’all, it’s summer. Things be busy.

• Cancel your plans for the weekend, because Orange is the New Black launches its next season after the trauma-inducing finale of last season. ScreenRant’s awesome Lauren Wethers details 15 OITNB characters you (and the writers) completely forgot.

• The story of the demise of Booksellers at Laurelwood, one of those marvelous anchor bookstores in Memphis, and how the phoenix is rising from the ashes. On the flip side, the New Yorker believes that Amazon’s brick-and-mortar bookstores “are not built for people who actually read.” Apparently they’re like the world’s biggest airport bookstores: the same titles you’ll see in every bookstore. Only 200 titles in fiction, 3,000 in the whole store. The charity sale my church runs on a quarterly basis has a wider selection than the most comprehensive bookseller in the nation.

• Speaking of books, learn the true stories behind The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Raise your hand if you loved that book, dreamed of running away to live in a museum and embarked on a lifelong fascination with the works of Michelangelo. Just me? I was also quite fond of Elain Konigsburg’s debut novel, Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth.

• Ever wonder what they put in the recording in Voyager I? Other than, “Hello Borg: Please Come Assimilate Us”? Find out here, as Carl Sagan’s team unpacked the whole of human history and culture.

• Locals: LouFest has added Snoop Dogg among others to its lineup. As I scan the list, I recognize Huey Lewis & The News and that’s it, because I am desperately uncool and old. However, they are celebrating Chuck Berry, which is awesome.

• Nerds of Color’s Denny Upkins reviews why Cassandra Cain is really Batman 2.0. Check out the many heroes of Gotham City…

• And in case you missed them, Annie Leibovitz did amazing portraits of the characters of The Last Jedi for a spread in Vanity Fair. I’m not sure how she does what she does, but I may spend a lifetime trying to learn it. Kathleen Kennedy says of Carrie Fisher: “Harrison (Ford) was front and center on VII, and Mark (Hamill) is front and center on VIII. She thought IX would be her movie. And it would have been.” Sniffle.

Thursday Linkspam

Everyone has already posted their condolences on the death of Roger Moore, so I won’t try. Cancer sucks.

As usual, the debate of “who was the best Bond” arises as it does any time the Bond franchise is in the news, with the aura of a religious fervor and none shall be swayed. I won’t say Moore was my favorite Bond, but he was the first I saw, back when they re-ran Bond flicks in marathons every summer and I was watching them with my dad.

The Film Professor was partial to Sean Connery, of course, since he was the first and Film Professor saw them in the theater from the start. But Connery was a little too fond of smacking women around (and raping them). The linked analysis delves more extensively into it - and yes, 1960s movies based on post-WWII books, but let’s not pretend that we didn’t know what rape and lesbianism was in 1964. I barely understood either concept when I first watched Goldfinger, and yet I knew enough to know that scene was wrong in every way.

Still, Moore was my entry drug, and his suave enjoyment of his character gave me a fondness for the tropes of the series that lasts to this day. I count myself a solid Bond fan, with all the warts and glitches of the series acknowledged. I started catching them in the theater with Timothy Dalton (who doesn’t get enough credit for holding the franchise together through its hardest years) and every film since. Even Tomorrow Never Dies, which is the only one I refuse to ever watch again.

The surviving Bond actors (and Bond girls) gave their reactions in many ways, from Jane Seymour to Pierce Brosnan to Connery himself. But I thought it was Daniel Craig who gave the best eulogy. “Nobody does it better.”

If you know the artist, please let me know so I can credit.


In other news…

• In case you’ve been asleep all day and didn’t see the interwebs until now, it’s the 40th anniversary of the premiere of Star Wars. I cannot share a story of seeing it in the theater, because I was two years old and my parents sensibly left me with a babysitter. But I’d be nuts not to acknowledge the impact it has had on science fiction, on filmmaking, on American popular culture, on the economy… You can Google the retrospectives as well as I can. But as much as George Lucas has taken it on the chin over the years, no one can deny he created something that spoke to nearly everyone, beyond the boundaries of genre, something ultimately bigger than himself. What more can we ask as artists?

Racist mouthbreathers are protesting the new Star Trek Discovery because *gasp* the captain is an Asian woman and the first officer is a black woman. Granted, any time someone tries to tie “fan reaction” to the comments on YouTube and Twitter, I am suspect. But worse is that the writers keep calling these idiots “Trekkies.” I challenge them to ask any of these genetically disadvantaged asshats calling Discovery “white genocide in space” (seriously??) whether they have ever actually seen an episode of Star Trek. The answer is no, because Trek pretty much pioneered diversity in mainstream science fiction before these morons were born. Therefore the word they are searching for is “troll,” not “Trekkie.”

RIP Lisa Spoonauer, best known as Caitlin in Kevin Smith’s raunchy low-budget surprise hit Clerks. In one respect Clerks is vile toilet humor, the sort of film you watch when the kids are in bed and you’re sure no one’s coming over. And yet it spoke to those of us slogging away behind mind-numbing cash registers in the 1990s, a slice of our own lives there in grainy black-and-white film. No one has yet said what caused Spoonauer’s death at the age of 44, but her Clerks castmates have given their condolences and remembered her as a skilled professional who helped shape the film that launched Smith’s career.

• Book nerds who are wondering what the latest Amazon-vs.-publisher kerfuffle is about: Jason Sizemore of Apex Book Co. writes a clear and concise analysis of what it means for publishers, for authors, and for readers.

• An interesting reflection on the Cannes Film Festival’s haute cinema decision and how the blame for the film industry’s problems lies in Hollywood’s obsession with franchises, not streaming services hitting the production arena.

• Here, launch a fight! IndieWire attempts to rank the 25 best science fiction movies of the 21st century (so far). Spoiler alert: Children of Men is first. Um, not even close, boys. Let the battle begin!

• Speaking of movies, this weekend is Memorial Day, which used to be the launching point for the summer blockbusters. It keep creeping earlier every year. The big release this weekend is Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, which I truly hoped would not suck. Alas, the critics disagree; it’s at 32 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s still getting higher marks than Baywatch, also coming out this weekend, but let’s not damn it with faint praise. I really did not care for the fourth Pirates film, but I loved the first three, so I was hoping for a return to swashbuckling fun this time…

• In the category of (possible) bombs, literally no one has said That Dirty Dancing remake was awesome!” It was three hours long, it was on broadcast TV, and everyone has said Baby should have stayed in the corner. Rolling Stone watched it so you don’t have to. Me? I had better things to do, like trim my toenails and wish Patrick Swayze was still around. (Note: There IS a Dirty Dancing Broadway musical, which I understand is pretty awesome and came nowhere near this mess.)

• And finally… Supergirl gives its nod to the upcoming Wonder Woman film. Tee hee hee. “Nice boots.” Go ahead and click, you could use the laugh.

It’s a big weekend here at stately CultureGeek Manor with a birthday, a graduation, a party and probably a great deal of rum coming, so I can’t swear there will be much in Monday’s Linkspam. Have a great holiday weekend, and stay nerdy!

Monday Linkspam

Biggest geek news of the week so far is definitely the tragedy afflicting the Zack Snyder family and Joss Whedon taking over as director of Justice League. The fact that I really hated Snyder's take on superheroes in general and Superman in particular has no bearing on the terrible sadness he is fighting, after the suicide of his daughter. He said he knew he had to come clean about the reasons for this move, because otherwise the internet would explode with speculations about why Whedon (who has a very different style) is replacing him at the helm of the film. He is probably quite right. 

• Speaking of DC, it looks like early critics are loving Wonder Woman. Best DC film yet, lifting the doldrums of the franchise, etc. May all of you join me in the mantra again: Please don't suck please don't suck please don't suck...

• Congratulations to the winners of the Nebula Award! Including one of my personal favorites, Seanan McGuire. Hugos are still pending...

• A transgender artist drawing a comic about transitioning? Of course she's being harassed, doxxed and threatened with various forms of violence! Internet, you suck. Sophie Labelle had to cancel her book launch as well, which has a serious financial impact. Is that the real purpose: kill through financial strangulation? That would be speculation.

• The fascinating story of the battle between children's author E.B. White and the early proponents of children's libraries, via the New Yorker. More interesting to me than the battle of Stuart Little was the picture of libraries at the turn of the century, places barred to children kept at arm's length from literature. 

• Go ahead, Browncoats. You can cry now.

• My friend Dennis Upkins has the only quasi-positive review of the new King Arthur film I've read. He makes some good points, as well as providing some shirtless Charlie Hunnam, which is always a positive point. (Readers mass-click on the link.)


• As Supernatural is the current holder of the ER Memorial "That's Still On?" Award, it only seems appropriate that the Winchester Boys will be crossing over with Scooby-Doo, in full Hanna-Barbara cartoon-land. I stopped watching the show several seasons ago when it seemed that all the plots were "rinse, repeat." But I swear I might jump back in just for that.

• Did The Dark Crystal freak you out as a kid? Great! Now you can freak out your kids, too. Netflix has ordered 10 episodes for a weird-out miniseries. Minus Jim Henson, alas.


Thursday Linkspam

Rest in peace Chris Cornell, lead singer for Soundgarden, whose death appears to be hitting many hard according to social media. Variety says it is being investigated as a suicide based on what was observed in the hotel room, but naturally it’s far too soon to say. The reaction from the music world has been one of mourning.

• Fans of Neil Gaiman and the late Sir Terry Pratchett will be happy to hear that Good Omens is getting a miniseries. Naturally Gaiman is primary on this, since Pratchett has sadly passed away. It’s going to BBC via Amazon Studios, which goes to show the new streaming model means we may get weirder, more creative and funkier entertainment in the coming years than the focus-group networks have provided up till now.

• On the other hand, the Cannes film festival has banned movies only available on streaming services because they’re stuck in 1999. Netflix submitted Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories to Cannes and were admitted, but then there was screaming because apparently a movie can’t be shown on a streaming service for three years after it’s left theaters to qualify. Netflix offered a compromise, and they're allowed to stay this year. But instead of joining us in the 21st century, Cannes has decided to ban streaming-only films entirely beginning next year. Way to get with the times, folks.

Star Trek Discovery finally gives us a trailer with actual, you know, footage. Some people are weirded out about the uniforms, or the setting (ten years prior to the original five-year mission), or whether it’s Prime-verse or Abrams-verse (it’s Prime)… I’m weirded out because the lead character isn’t the captain. Though Captain Yeoh is pretty awesome. Please don’t suck please don’t suck please don’t suck…

Ridley Scott is now working for TNT, developing a series of original science fiction programming in various formats. TV-movies? Miniseries? Anthology series? No one really knows, but between this and the revamp at SyFy to actually put out sci-fi could hint that real science fiction is on the upswing after years of being reduced to Wargames! In! Space!

• Did you want more Sheldon? Because you’re gonna get more Sheldon. Big Bang Theory spinoff Young Sheldon gets the green light at CBS. I know as a certified geek I am supposed to love BBT, but I watched one episode and never laughed, while feeling mildly uncomfortable: are we laughing with the geeks or at them? But I know many of y’all love it, so here ya go: more Sheldon.

• I can't be the only one really nervous about turning The Haunting of Hill House into a 10-part miniseries. The opening paragraph of Shirley Jackson's novel is simply the best opening paragraph of any novel ever, in my oh-so-humble opinion. The story spawned an entire sub-subgenre of horror stories. So what could possibly go wrong? Meep. Please don't suck please don't suck please don't suck...

TV series Mom decides to spend its $250,000 Emmy campaign budget on a donation to Planned Parenthood instead. Mom stars Allison Janney of West Wing fame and they are using their Emmy campaign attention to advocate on behalf of the nonprofit. I hadn’t heard much about Mom beyond Janney finally winning Emmys (which she deserved way back at the West Wing); it’s about a mother and daughter recovering from alcohol and drug abuse.

• Everything old is new again: Roseanne and Will and Grace will return after umpty years off the air, Fargo is in its third season (roh?), Twin Peaks and X-Files are on their way back again for more weirdness... is Hollywood out of ideas? Are we so exhausted with the dreck they've given us that we're delighted to return to the era when TV was really, really good? Can you capture lightning in a bottle twice? We shall see...

Monday Linkspam

I’m going to assume that it was MY column last week that convinced NBC to un-cancel Timeless. (Hilariously, showrunner Eric Kripke and star Matt Lanter both announced the change as if they went back in time and changed NBC’s minds. Hee.) I clearly have a very powerful voice in Hollywood, see? Deadline says NBC has been playing hardball with all of its series that are produced outside the network, including Blindspot and Taken. Both were renewed, but Sony and NBC were wrangling on the split of profits for Timeless and couldn't come to an agreement. But the cancellation announcement led to loud screams from the internet, and Sony was trying to find a streaming home, and NBC flipped a coin and said, “Okay, you get ten more episodes.” Writers: Bring it.

• In the category of CultureGeek Does Not Understand Fashion, Balenciaga is making a purse that looks like the IKEA bags, which amused IKEA no end. Balenciaga, of course, is one of those fancy-schmancy fashion companies that makes things I could never afford and often wouldn’t want. I do want IKEA bags, because they’re awesome. I have several. Mine cost 99 cents. Balenciaga’s cost $2,145. Did you know there’s a whole DIY subculture of making things from IKEA bags? I love that IKEA is all, “Go to it! We think it’s creatively awesome!”

• Bill Mantlo created Rocket Raccoon, and for 25 years he has lived in a nursing home after he was brain-damaged in a hit-and-run accident. Before the first Guardians film, fans apparently were campaigning to raise money for his treatment, and Marvel has negotiated a new compensation package that will allow Mantlo to move out of the nursing home and into a house next door to his brother.

• Ouch. King Arthur is the first box-office bomb of the summer, making only $14.7 million on its $175 million budget. Variety says King Arthur “may just want to put that sword back where he found it and pretend this never happened.” You know, I like Guy Ritchie most of the time, but that trailer pretty much drubbed everything anyone likes about the Camelot story and made it into Fast and Furious: Medieval Style. Yawn. Charlie Hunnam is far too talented an actor to try to build his movie career on playing Jax Teller in various settings, and I wish he’d cut it out.

GeekDad takes aim at Barnes & Noble for its recent decision to mix new titles into their categories and turn all books spine-out. And I’m right there with him. Spine-out already is the worst sale position for a book; I once saw my books displayed at Dragoncon spine-out on the bottom shelf next to the register. Guess what? Didn’t sell a single book from that retailer. People have to really be looking to find your book if they can’t even see the cover. And as GeekDad points out, the big New Releases table is much too full of the latest political tripe or celebrity memoir or fad diet or yet another ghostwritten “James Patterson” thriller; you rarely see science fiction or horror on that table, and NEVER small press. Hell, we small press folk would be lucky to be spine-out on a bottom shelf to be ignored by the big boys. I like Buns & Noodles - hell, I like almost every bookstore. But the more they get taken over by toys we can get cheaper almost anywhere and endless piles of novelty gift thingies for when you really don’t know the person you’re buying for at all, and the more they do away with horror sections altogether and mix in our books with regular fiction (or fantasy - what?), the more we drift toward “a certain online retailer” because at least there you can find what you want. Do better! We want you to hang around.

• An excellent explanation for why the upcoming Wonder Woman movie is set in World War I instead of letting her punch Nazis. Of course, one could assume that Captain America’s running battle against Nazis past and present in the Marvel Universe might mean something as well, but then we’d have to talk about the current Cap storyline in the comics which doesn’t exist as far as CultureGeek is concerned so cram it, Marvel. In the meantime, I am simply hoping Wonder Woman does spectacularly well at the box office. We have all been chanting please don’t suck please don’t suck, but frankly, I don’t even care as much if it DOES suck, as long as it makes a boatload of money. In Hollywood, action movies with male stars can tank left right and center, and they will blame everything except “it had a male star.” That would be silly, right? But if a movie with a female star tanks a la Catwoman or Elektra, it tanked because it was a female headliner, and that’s the end of the story. If Wonder Woman tanks, it’ll be another 20 years before we get a superhero film with a female lead. So do us all a favor and go see it even if it sucks, okay?

• Also in comics, the new Doomsday Clock miniseries will allow Superman and Doctor Manhattan to meet. That sound you hear is Alan Moore’s head spinning around and possibly exploding. Also, Doomsday Clock will have no tie-ins, no offshoots, totally standalone… holy Hera, I might actually buy this.

• Finally, Disney bids farewell to “Wishes,” its long-running nighttime show at the Magic Kingdom. After 14 years, it’s being replaced with a new show that better not suck, because people are nuts for Wishes. Here, see the final show one more time.

Thursday Linkspam

Dangit. It never fails. A quirky little show pops up, it has problems but also some serious potential, and I like it. Naturally, it doesn’t survive the first season. Timeless fell victim to the Conspiracy Arc Syndrome that seems to bedevil most speculative fiction shows: really, guys, we can bop around from time period to time period and enjoy the hell out of the quasi-history our erstwhile, occasionally brainless heroes visit, and it doesn’t have to be a grand conspiracy theory. It can just be fun. I liked that show, perhaps more for what it could have been than what it was.

You know what else is cancelled or ending this year? Bones, Sleepy Hollow, Time After Time, Bates Motel, Rizzoli and Isles… okay, Rizzoli was a while ago, but I just now caught up and dammit, I loved that show. Among shows I didn’t watch but others did: APB, Rosewood, Frequency, Emerald City, Pitch, Salem, Ghost Hunters, Doubt, Secrets and Lies… did anyone actually know that Tim Allen’s Last Man Standing went six seasons? I don’t think I ever heard anyone mention watching it.

Thank God for Supergirl...

• Hey, remember when SyFy was awesome? Me neither. Oh, I remember the SciFi Channel, and THAT was awesome. And I remember Battlestar Galactica, which was the best series I couldn’t bear to watch a second time. And I remember that it used to run Star Trek and Twilight Zone episodes all the time, and if their made-for-TV movies were kinda goofy, who cares? Then they became the SyFyLys Network, and seemed focused solely on wrestling, sharks and being really, really crappy. Now the leaders have come up with the world’s ugliest new logo as part of their rebranding and “returning to (their) roots,” which sadly does not involve actually re-adopting the name Sci-Fi. They do say they want to go back to “high-end, scripted TV,” focusing on space/scifi, fantasy, paranormal and superheroes. You mean the genres currently kicking everyone’s ass all over the silver screen and somehow still failing on TV? By all means, SyFyLys, give us your best shot. (But please kill that logo before it breeds.)

• It’s going to be trailer after trailer these days, isn’t it? Well, that’s okay, because the Blade Runner 2049 trailer is fairly interesting even if you have serious problems with the first Blade Runner. That would be a constituency of me, of course. Look, I like Ridley Scott and I love Harrison Ford. But the first film felt like serious style over substance, Ridley Scott trying to be Stanley Kubrick but not quite soulless enough, with an extra bonus of rapist protagonist! Wait, I’m not the only one… Eric Haywood of makes a good case that Decker is the real villain of Blade Runner. Still, I might watch the new one, if only to unpack some of this stuff and see if they address it.

• dissects The Fifth Element and why we’re still bedeviled by it 20 years later. My opinion of it today remains much the same as when I saw it in the theater: Silly fun, giant plot holes, gender issues, and in all a strange flick that I’d watch if nothing else was on. But that reviewer who said, "This is better than Star Wars!" is still high.

• None of you are interested in 30 hours of Doctor Who radio dramas, are you? Nah, didn’t think so… (Kidding!) Speaking of which, we’re getting more Torchwood! Capt. Jack and Gwen are back, since everyone else is DEAD (Russell Davies you bastard) and there is a whole new passel o’ cannon fodder plus cameos from the previous seasons’ survivors. Um, except there’s a slight hitch: it’s an audio drama. Why do you hate us, RTD? (Nothing against audio dramas, I’m particularly fond of of the art form for stories that are suited for it, but Torchwood really needs visuals and this feels like the BBC wussing out on the actual production costs of their spectacularly popular franchise.)

Jennifer Morrison has quit Once Upon a Time. I never actually watched this show, but I have halfway-followed its shenanigans since so many of you love it. Despite the departure of its central character, it's been renewed, which may or may not mean circling shark-infested waters. I keep meaning to give this show a shot…

Handmaid’s Tale’s Margaret Atwood recommends 15 books, including dystopian fiction. Some are obvious choices - duh, 1984 - but others are new to me. And I did not know the B-movie classic Donovan’s Brain was a book first. (I have not seen the series yet; I was thinking of making my family watch it with me, but that would require us all to be in one room. Thus it waits...)


Monday Linkspam

The new Wonder Woman trailer has dropped. I liked the previous one better, but at least we’re seeing new motion on the movie with only a few weeks to go. This trailer was obviously geared at the super-action fans, heavy on the explosions and fisticuffs. As I’ve said before, I don’t even care if it sucks, as long as it makes money. Because if it doesn’t absolutely blow all the records out, if it’s even slightly less than perfect at the box office, we won’t get another female-centered superhero film for another 20 years.

Book Riot says what the rest of us are thinking about Marvel’s idiotic, disastrous “Cap is Hydra” timeline that everyone hates and P.S. no one is buying.

• In the You’ll Never See This Much Cool Again category, see Star Trek authors Kevin Dilmore, Dayton Ward, Glenn Hauman, Robert Greenberger, Michael Jan Freidman, William Leisner, David Mack, Scott Pearson, Dave Galanter, Aaron Rosenberg and Keith DeCandido all in one place: the bridge of the USS Enterprise. All they were missing was Peter David!

• Oh, hello new IT trailer. Good thing I wasn’t sleeping tonight.

• And speaking of trailers, the Defenders trailer means that I’m going to have to watch the ones that aren’t Jessica Jones now. Dangit.

• Black Nerd Problems analyzes race in the new American Gods series based on the novel by Neil Gaiman. “After all, the black man in America knows sacrifice, doesn’t he? Part of the brilliance of Gaiman’s novel is exactly what he chooses to mythologize in his story of America; yes, there are gods, but the real mythological landscape is America itself, and an outdated form of American nostalgia.”

• The really excellent and terribly misnamed Edge of Tomorrow will actually get a sequel in defiance of Hollywood physics. Unfortunately Tom Cruise will be back - don’t get me wrong, Cruise is fun and all, but Emily Blunt is the real heroine of that story and Cruise’s fame tends to blot out everything else.  At least Blunt will be back, so maybe they’ll let her be awesome without standing in the big star’s shadow this time.

• And finally, a Random Useless Fact: Jerry Orbach of Beauty and the Beast and Law & Order fame was an uncredited extra in 1955’s Guys and Dolls even though he had a whole singing line to himself. He’s the guy in the barbershop who first sings out, “Why, it’s good old reliable Nathan, Nathan Nathan Nathan Detroit!” Once you’re looking for him and listening for his baritone, it’s clear as a bell. Of course, he went on to be nominated for a Tony for Guys and Dolls in the 1965 revival and originated the best song in The Fantasticks, along with his roles in the aforementioned movies, tons of Broadway, and of course Dirty Dancing, among others.



Art From Artist: Ender's Game and Orson Scott Card

Never before have I so wanted to know the details of a film rights contract.

Orson Scott Card's descent into political maelstrom is probably one of the most head-scratching conundrums for science fiction fans since the invention of Jar Jar Binks. I came to the Ender series late, having read almost exclusively in the Star Trek world through much of my formative years. But when I discovered Ender, I discovered him.

Even as a young adult, Card's work kept me enthralled. As a young newspaper intern in Tennessee, I once, er, extended my lunch break by ten minutes because I was that close to the end of the newest Ender book and I could not set it aside to return to the newsroom until I knew what happened. Shhh, don't tell my old boss.

I think Salon's Steven Lloyd Wilson captured best the conundrum facing fans: it's not just that OSC is a staunch conservative espousing extreme homophobic opinions. Heaven knows there are plenty of science fiction writers with controversial or unpopular opinions, and I think we all defend their right to say what they think as loudly as they like.

No, it is the nature of Card's work that makes his political stances so difficult to understand. Wilson encapsulated it better than I ever could:

What I cannot quite wrap my mind around is how the mind which wrote such a beautiful meditation on empathy can be the same one that argues for the violent overthrow of the American government because of its failure to ban gay marriage and to outlaw homosexuality generally. Card describes in a fair amount of detail the advocated program of state-sponsored shaming he is in favor of. There’s a cognitive disconnect here, of how someone can advocate the minimal government of libertarianism while in the next sentence saying with a straight face that the government should regulate the sex lives of its citizens, but that’s run of the mill hypocrisy as far as political conversations go. I’m more confounded by the cognitive disconnect between the empathy required to create Ender and the callousness required to insist that you have the right to use violence to tell other people how they should live their lives.

The exploration of religion as both a positive and negative force, the need for open-minded tolerance among those who are different, advocacy of people's rights to form a family of their choice... these are all themes in the Ender books. When Demosthenes writes that families should have the right to have a third child if they please, it is a violation of everything their society believes, and advocating the freedom of choice for families.

But the man who wrote that also wrote that a government that permits gay marriage should be taken down by armed rebellion, that every homosexual marriage is a direct threat to his own. "Cognitive disconnect" is the nice way to put it.

Most of the time I can separate art from crazy artist. I can recognize that Tom Cruise used to be one hell of a good actor (circa Born on the Fourth of July) and Mel Gibson still is (circa Braveheart). I can even get behind supporting art with which I do not necessarily believe, because it is good art. But there also comes a point where I need to keep my money from going to people actively using it to harm others, and Card is on the board of a national organization doing its level best to stamp out marriage equality.

Now Ender's Game will be a movie. Obviously the film execs are hoping to capitalize on what they are billing as the boys' version of The Hunger Games, but that's because film executives are soulless and don't know what they're talking about. They are smart enough, however, to keep OSC as far away from the spotlight as possible - I'd be stunned if they were stupid enough to send him to San Diego Comic-Con, which (as some have pointed out) is rather like promoting Harry Potter without J.K. Rowling. Still, it's safer than putting Card in front of a packed ballroom for Q&A.

Thus we come back to the contract. Because if Card has already been paid for the Ender rights, then the cost of my ticket will only go to the people who adapted, developed, acted and shot the movie. I'm okay with those folks getting my money.

On the other hand, if Card gets a piece of the back end (pardon the expression), I have to think twice about it. Not necessarily a deal-breaker, mind you: there's still a lot of people involved who may have made great art out of Card's novel, which was itself one of the greatest science fiction novels in the English language. Come on, producer-folk: tell us if it's safe to give you our money.

Because I want to see it, with every fiber of my SF-nerd being. Will Ender learn more than zero-G battle tactics? Or did they take a treatise on personal freedom and forgiveness of one's fellow alien and make it into just another adventure? Is this the real book that captivated me in the parking lot of my first newspaper, or is it just Tron-meets-Hunger Games?

Mostly, I want to see if the boy who learned the hard way that violence and intolerance gain us nothing but death survives onto the big screen.