Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Friend of Bill's

April 23rd is generally accepted as Shakespeare's birthday, though record-keeping 450 years ago wasn't exactly a science. We know he was baptized on April 26th and that he died on April 23rd. April 23rd is also St. George's Day in England, so it's poetic justice (if nothing else) that we celebrate the greatest playwright in the English language's birthday today. And of course, how could a blogger who takes his nom de plume and blog title from what is probably his last play not talk about him?

As with most Americans, my first encounter with Shakespeare was in a high school English class. Luckily for Uncle P, it wouldn't be my last. Of course, it took a rather brilliant acting coach and director in college to actually make me appreciate Shakespeare. It was the spring before my sophomore year when I cast as Claudius in Hamlet, set for production the following fall. The director worked his young principals all summer, teaching us how to find the rhythms of Iambic Pentameter so they made conversational sense; explaining the jokes and archaic terms and (for me, at least), how to use our voices to their fullest effect. Since then I have appeared in and/or directed some of the Bard's most iconic pieces. I played Friar Laurence in Romeo and Juliet (twice); Cassius in Julius Caesar; Sir Toby Belch in Twelfth Night; a gay Jacgues in As You Like It, as well as Gonzalo and Prospero in two very different productions of The Tempest, while acting as sound-designer/lead Foley artist for a third. I directed a box-office record breaking production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, followed by a WWII-era Much Ado About Nothing and a Prohibition-era Romeo and Juliet at Princeton. I am desperate to direct a "Splash-Zone" production of Titus Andronicus, but it seems that most theatre companies are afraid to let me. I say they don't know what they're missing out on.

Ultimately, what makes Shakespeare still popular 400 years on, was his ability to so perfectly capture what we have come to know as 'The Human Condition.' For all our scientific and technological advances, we still behave as irrationally as most of Shakespeare's characters do. We fall in love; we feel jealously, rage and sadness; we laugh and dance and carry on; we question ourselves and the very meaning of life. In his controversial book "Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human Condition," author Harold Bloom posits that all we all behave the way we do because Shakespeare's plays have taught us to do so. To which I respond, "Nonsense!" Shakespeare was simply noting and commenting on human behavior as it has always been and most likely always will be. He just did it using those beautiful words of his. 

Uncle P (C) as Claudius in "Hamlet" (1982)

Happy Birthday, Bill! I hope to work with you again, sooner than later.

More, anon.

Monday, April 21, 2014

TV Review "Salem"

Sometime in the Mid-1980's, Uncle P appeared as Judge Danforth in a rather excellent (if I say so myself) production of Arthur Miller's 1953 play The Crucible. While based on real historical events, Miller's play was actually a condemnation of Senator Joe McCarthy's attempt to paint all artists, gays and liberals as Communists. And undoubtedly, a small demographic of them, were. 

Flash forward 71 years. Cable network WGNAmerica has taken the true story of one of early America's darkest bits of history and turned it into an intriguing genre show which posits that witches were/are real and that 17th Century Salem was a hotbed of their satanic activities. Spoilers ahead.

Seething hottie Shane West ("Nikita;" "ER") is John Alden, in love with the beautiful Mary (Janet Montgomery). When the sadistic Magistrate George Sibley sends Alden off to fight in the French/Indian war, he leaves behind a pregnant Mary who asks her servant Tituba to relieve her of her condition. Seven years pass and when Alden returns to Salem (after having been declared dead), he finds his love married to Sibley and the town in the grip of witch fever. Alden's childhood contemporary Cotton Mather (beautiful "Fringe" alum Seth Gabel) is leading the war against the witches, using young Mercy Lewis to point out the witches who supposedly torment her.

While I could find no credit for the series' creator, I must commend the writers for doing their research and incorporating historical figures from the well-documented Salem Witch Trials into their tale. John Alden; Cotton Mather; Mercy Lewis; Reverend John Hale; Tituba and Giles Corey ('pressed" to death by a pile of stones) were all real people who took part in the trials, either as judges, accusers or the accused. Of course, in this fictional version of events, the witches (now led by Mary Sibley) use their powers to deflect suspicion onto other members of the community. In this version Alden is the skeptic, intent on proving the superstitious townsfolk are wrong, even after he's seen evidence to the contrary while still in love with the now evil Mary Sibley (who houses her familiar toad in her supposedly infirm husband's gut).
In real life, the Salem Witch Trials had more to do with land-grabs and power-plays than the supernatural. In the WGN version, the opposite holds true. While I found the series' writing to be clever and original, I was a bit put-off by the acting which seemed rather stilted in deference to the period depicted.  It seemed to me that most of the actors gave over to style, rather than truth, despite the mostly excellent production values and special effects. Still, I can't complain about the entertainment value the show provided and must imagine that those not fully familiar with the actual history will be engaged on a very different level than myself. 

Personally, I am looking forward to seeing where the series goes. *** (Three Out of Four Stars)

This is one new Summer series I'll be watching. If your cable provider has WGN (unlike several of my friends and family members), I recommend "Salem" for nothing else than it's high entertainment value.

More anon,

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Retro Review: "Dark Skies"

Ah, cable TV. Where box-office failures appear first.

I'm not sure why last year's alien abduction movie Dark Skies bombed. It's not particularly bad (though it does have it's moments). I managed to catch it on cable today and was mostly entertained and mildly creeped out.

Lacy Barret (Keri Russel) and her husband Daniel (Josh Hamilton) are a typical suburban couple, struggling to get by. Daniel is a currently unemployed architect, while Lacy is a realtor in a depressed market. When their youngest son Sammy (Kadan Rocket) starts to have nightmares about the 'Sandman,' odd things begin to happen. There's the Poltergeist-like configuration of canned and boxed goods in the kitchen which appears in the middle of the night; the disappearance of all of the family photos and the 3 separate flocks of birds that commit suicide by dive-bombing their house. Then there are the apparent sleepwalking episodes experienced by most of the family. And let's not forget their 12 year old's obsession with porn and an older, bad-influence friend.

Director Scott Stewart (of the almost good Legion and the terrible Priest) manages to get some excellent performances from his cast (particularly the youngsters), but his screenplay leaves much to be desired. As the weird events build, we are treated to some truly creepy moments. But once J.K.Simmons is introduced as an "Alien Abduction Expert," all bets are off. We've seen this story before, but done better.

Dark Skies has some truly creepy moments and occasionally effective SFX, despite being a Conspiracy Theorist's wet dream. And while this subject has been explored before in both better (Close Encounters of the Third Kind) and worse (The Fourth Kind) films, I still managed to enjoy it, despite it's rather obvious denouement. If you have 97 minutes to kill, there are probably worse things on which you could waste your time. ** (Two out of Four Stars)

 Dark Skies is not a terrible genre movie, even if it crosses genre tropes.

More, anon.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Gayest Thing You'll See This Week

Bryan Hawn
You know I love me some gay boys lip-syncing to Diva songs. In fact, the very first "The Gayest Thing" post here on Caliban's Revenge was that little twink dancing to Beyonce's 'Single Ladies' in his bedroom. Then there was the boy singing Miley in the shower and who knows how many others. It's been a while since anyone's done one of note so I was a bit surprised to find the video below on Facebook, today.

Former Aberzombie model; trainer; aspiring singer and actor Bryan Hawn (how much do I love that his site has a link to his 'ass workout?' Probably as much as I hate the misspelling of his first name) has posted his take on Sia's "Chandelier."

Uncle P is old, kids. I know that Sia (not to be confused with my sweet friend 'Siah) exists, only because I've seen her name on various websites and may have caught her on "Fashion Police," back when I watched it with Mom. The song is okay, I guess, but it seems silly coming from Hawn's mouth. Truthfully, Hawn isn't exactly Uncle P's 'type.' I get it... hardbody boy and all that... but he's a bit too hairless for my taste (TMI, I know) and there's something about his face... I suppose he just doesn't look very bright (he may be a genius for all I know, though I somehow doubt it). Still, the video is hilariously gay and I know plenty of friends and followers who will totally lose their sh*t over him. Enjoy:

Meh. Give me Jason; Chris; Paul; Henry; Jason; Jake or James any day (so many J's!).

More, anon.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Five Season Rule

Joanne Kelly and Eddie McClintock
This week marked the start of the fifth and final season of my favorite goofy Steampunk/Occult/Sci-Fi TV show  "Warehouse 13." The SyFy channel (I still hate that stupid name - what is it with me and names, lately? - again, I digress) seems to have a pattern of dumping some it's best shows after 5 seasons. "Eureka" was another sweet and goofy Sci-Fi show, while "Battlestar Galactica" spent a scant four seasons over 6 years. 

A fan since the very first episode, Uncle P is truly going to miss "Warehouse 13," though from what I'm guessing so far, it should have a satisfying ending. Yes, it's full of Steampunk gadgets (something they finally acknowledged in last night's season premiere) and a pseudo-science/occult vibe that makes total sense, given the confines of the universe established by the writers (Yes, K - "Within the parameters of it's own reality." Doesn't sound so crazy now, does it? -- Oops. Digressing again). Cool toys, one-liners and obscure but often hilarious historical and or literature references (and self-references) aside, it's the rather extraordinary cast and their chemistry that make "Warehouse 13" such a delight to watch. Brilliant veteran character actors Saul Rubinek and CCH Pounder are joined by Joanne Kelly; Eddie McClintock (who some call 'the poor man's David Boreanaz, though truth be told, I'll take Eddie over David any day...); Allison Scagliotti ("One Tree Hill") and Aaron Ashmore ("Veronica Mars") in a group that has become an oddly functional family is a very dysfunctional universe. 

More than anything, it's rather amazing chemistry between McClintock and Kelly that make the show so very watchable, as evidenced by the episode in which an 'artifact' (if you watch, you know) causes the unlikely partners to switch bodies in an episode which managed to skewer several genre tropes in one fell swoop:

Kelly's 'sexy, smart gal' is the perfect compliment to McClintock's 'sexy doofus.' Together, they provide the show with the perfect combination of romantic/sexual tension and buddy-cop camaraderie. Add Scagliotti's father/daughter relationship with Rubinek to her GBFF relationship with Ashmore and you have quite an interesting group of characters exploring all kinds of relationships amidst the quirky premise. TV doesn't get much more fun than this, kids.

The season premiere picked up right where last season's cliff-hanger left off with a time-travel, continuum-altering plot that was hardly original but very amusingly pulled off, saving the Warehouse once again from someone who wanted to use it's secrets for nefarious means. While there is never any doubt that our intrepid heroes will find a way to save the day, the fun is in watching how they do it. I must imagine it's lots of fun on the set of "Warehouse 13." I will be sad to see it go, but will never deny the pleasure it;s brought me. This is hardly Asimov or Heinlein. But it's always entertaining.

Only 6 episodes? Dang. Way to disappoint, SyFy. Hope we get at least another full 13 episode season of "Haven." Genre Geek rant over (for now).

More, anon.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Both the Gayest & Most Exciting New Music You'll See this Week

No blogger is 100% origial in their content (though I can't say I don't like when I post about something before the big bloggers do). Both items tonight come via Towleroad, but I thought they were both worth re-sharing and commenting. 

Uncle P is always happy to share new music, especially when it's good and has something to say. Which I is why I love singer/DJ Ray Isaac's beautiful and powerful anti-bullying song WHO I AM

As you must know by now, this is a topic near and dear to Uncle P's heart (even though said heart sits in a jar on a kitchen shelf next to another containing by baby fangs). But seriously, the world continues to lose so many kids with so much potential, all because of ignorance, fear and hate. 

On the other side of the music spectrum is the stuff that gives you goosebumps and brings you tears simply because of how beautiful it is. I remember seeing Canadian songstress Loreena McKennitt at Town Hall in NYC and being brought to tears by how beautiful her voice and the music was. I suppose this is what comes of growing up with a Classical Music father and a Rock 'N' Roll mother. Is it any wonder I was drawn to Musical Theatre? What you are about to see both gave me goose bumps and brought me to tears. The adorable 'Boy Band' Collabro (I hate the name, BTW) is not at all what you might expect. Nor did the judges on "Britain's Got Talent." When I first saw this clip last night, it only had 20 views. I Facebooked and Tweeted it, but it still only has just under 2,000 views. These very talented and adorable boys deserve to go viral. As Simon Cowell says at the end of the clip, "There's a hit record!"

I've a feeling this is hardly the last we've heard of Collabro (UGH! That NAME!)

More anon.

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Hottest, Gayest, Weirdest Things You'll See this Week (NSFW Version)

Well, several of the links maybe NSFW. Nothing visible on this post is, though.

Broadway Cares has been a major supporter of those in the theatre community affected by and with HIV/AIDS. They were major supporters of the JTMF silent auctions, providing autographed show posters and other memorabilia, as well as the many hundreds of red ribbons we gave out each year. I made my first donation directly to a cast member after seeing Julie Andrews in Victor/Victoria at the Marquis. Several events have sprung from the group including the amazing Broadway Flea Market and the annual 'naughty' revue known as "Broadway Bares" (featuring some of the Great White Way's hottest performers wearing nothing - or very little more - than a smile). This year's theme is 'Rock Hard' (get it?), celebrating rock musicals. has the full story (featuring some possibly NSFW shots of hot boys' butts) here, if you are so inclined.

The fuzz-lovers at Accidental Bear had two items that piqued my interest. First was a video trailer for a new magazine (Ugh! That's a thing now, too? Bad enough when they started doing them for novels... but I digress) called 'Good Boys in Trouble,' which appears to be some sort of Fashion/Lifestyle cyber-magazine for Cubs. Check that out here

The other story that caught my eye was the weirdest and certainly most NSFW thing about this post.

Uber-hottie Ryan Gosling appeared in a rather amazing and quirky 2007 film (which I remember loving)  called Lars and the Real Girl, about an awkward young man who invents a relationship with a customized vinyl doll he purchased online. The premise is based on a real-world industry in which a subculture of introverts has come to rely on these 'artificials' for companionship. One company which provides these anatomically correct companions is Sinthetics - link NSFW - (I can't decide if I love or hate that pun). They not only have quite a broad selection of models from which to choose (including 'accessories'), they also seem to pride themselves on how realistic their products are (ew). You can see their VERY NSFW photos and videos here, again if you so inclined. I'm hoping you'd rather see Lars...

More, anon.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Sally Starr's Martian Dilemma.

The "Face" on Mars
Uncle P is not currently (nor has been for quite a while) in a long-term relationship (though not for lack of trying). Like most of us however, I would not be adverse to being in one. It's basically what we all want, isn't it? That one person to spend our lives and grow old with. The person who makes our hearts beat just a little faster and who 'gets' us like no one else. I've thought I had "The One" at least twice... but I was painfully wrong both times. That doesn't mean I won't find "The One," despite having told my friends I've given up on doing so. "Hope," said Ms Dickinson."is the thing with feathers."  By now you are asking yourselves "What the hell does any of that have to do with Mars?" Well, I'll tell you.

Sonia Van Meter is among those chosen as a semi-finalist for the Mars One project, which hopes to establish a Human colony on Mars starting in 2024. That's just 10 years from now. If you are anywhere near Uncle P's age, you'll realize that 10 years is merely a blink of an eye in the grand scheme of Human history. 

Mars One, of course, is a one-way ticket for those taking part. Best estimates with our current space flight technology put travel time to the Red Planet at 6 years. Once there, colonists would then spend several more years building and establishing a sustainable environment for human life. And while I find such an endeavor to be both exciting and frightening, I can't begin to imagine what and/or how those family members of the finalists must feel. Van Meter's husband, Jason Stanford has written an excellent essay on what it might be like to have his significant other potentially go away, forever.

And again you are asking, "What the heck does Sally Starr have to do with any of of this?" I know I've told the story about my High School teacher and his cousin who rode the Ferris wheel to get a better look at local TV personality Sally Starr at a local carnival. When my teacher's cousin got sick on the wheel, Sally's dilemma was whether or not to stand her ground and get puked on, or move and get puked on. So my question is: Do you let your soul-mate/significant other/loved one go on what may well be the most important scientific expedition of the 21st Century or be selfish and demand that she/he remain with you here on Earth? I'm not sure I could make that choice and I think that I would only agree if I could accompany him/her. 

What would you do, given this situation? Especially after seeing this:

Would I go? Maybe. Would you?

More, anon.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Steam Punk'd

Can You Say 'Disappointment?'
It's no secret that I live in the Philly suburbs of Southeastern PA. It's also no secret that I am enamored of the Steampunk movement. Hell, this blog started with me posting about my Steampunk-inspired production of "The Skin of Our Teeth." I've always wanted to attend one of the big Steampunk events, most of which were held in cities far away and/or at times inconvenient for Uncle P to travel. So imagine my excitement when I discovered that Bucks County's very own arts community of New Hope was holding their first ever 'Steampunk Fantasy Faire.'

My college friend Deb, her husband Jon and their daughter Caitlin immediately jumped aboard; equally excited to attend our first real Steampunk event. We bought our tickets and were very psyched for the vendors, performing artists and events promised. We even arrived about an hour early to make sure we were able to both park and get in, spending about half an hour at a nearby McDonald's, nursing coffees and soft drinks. 

Finally, it was time. We made our way back up the hill to where the main events were being held. According to the brochures and the website, there were going be vendors; circus acts; comedy troupes; musicians and much more. Well, there were vendors (about 2 dozen or so) and a 'comedy' troupe that was funny by default. I bought a small picture frame (while coveting some other amazing items) and we watched a short, unoriginal and completely predictable film. Among the costumed participants was a rather imposingly large man dressed as Jason Vorhees. While his costume was spot-on, I had no idea what he had to do with Steampunk. The band we saw was quite good, though technical problems and noise from the vendors' area right behind made them hard to hear at times (I didn't understand a single lyric). The jugglers who accompanied them were in obvious need of more practice. They were followed by a 'comedy improv' group who were meant to be Steampunk Pirates of some sort, though it was quite obvious that none of them had spent enough time working with one another to present any sort of coherent act (much to the ironic amusement of my companions).

After a few hours we made our way into town proper, where we had an excellent lunch at Triumph Brewery and I ate what may well be the most delicious Turkey Melt I've ever had. After lunch, we headed down to the shops along Main Street, many of which were empty. I was actually saddened to see New Hope's halcyon days gone, with many of my favorite stores shuttered and/or replaced by inferior retailers.

Truth be told, this is the kind of entertainment we were hoping to find (as promised in the event's brochures):

Sadly, this was not the case. It seems that New Hope, once a cutting-edge, gay-friendly arts town has gone the way of Philadelphia's South Street. The once exciting and intriguing shops are gone (or on their way out), replaced by corporate retailers, Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts. Ugh! Hopefully, the Steampunk World's Fair in Piscataway, NJ (also within driving distance of Uncle P) this May will prove to be a more satisfying event. Who wants to join me?

To be fair, this was the first time New Hope hosted such an event. And despite being rather disorganized and small, we all managed to have a good time. Let's see what they come up with next year...

More, anon.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Someone Knows and Loves Me

Oh, Baby!
So... I came home from the Day Job today, glad that tomorrow will be both Friday and Payday. I got out of my car and went to my mailbox (as I do every day) to find a catalog (the corner of which cane be seen in the upper right of the photo) and a rather strange box. Inside the box, wrapped in cellophane and surrounded by red tissue paper, I found an Eyeless Baby Doll's Head. 

I must admit, I was a little freaked out, at first. "What the hell...?" I thought. "Is someone targeting me?"

Then I saw the silver ribbons and the nightlight attached to said Eyeless Baby Doll's Head and started to laugh. 

Sometime in the last few weeks, I had posted a photo of a lamp made from a ceramic doll head on Facebook. It was creepy and funny and I loved it. I quickly realized the Eyeless Baby Doll's Head nightlight was a gift from someone who knew me well and lived nearby, even though there was no card or note included. I immediately posted the picture on your left to Facebook, noting that it had arrived quite unexpectedly and thanking whomever had sent it to me. While I have an idea as to who gave me this delightfully macabre gift, I can't be sure until the giver fesses up. 

The best part? The bulb inside is red! Plugging it in revealed a ghoulishly hilarious night light that I hope will both delight and creep-out the friends who see it. 

Thank you, anonymous Eyeless Baby Doll's Head nightlight giver! I truly love and appreciate this gift, more than you can imagine. A scare, a laugh and the the knowledge that someone cares enough to entertain me in such a way was a huge spirit lifter (albeit a slightly macabre one). My friends never cease to amaze me.

More, anon.