Cindy Marie Jenkins

Going Beyond the Blurb to Navigate Comic-Con

Poor CoreyBlake.com. Neglected for so long. I’ve been busy bringing in an awesomely eclectic line-up of columnists at The Comics Observer, in addition to my shows with the Magic Meathands, an improv comedy troupe (show this Saturday!).

And the comic-y goodness doesn’t stop because this weekend it’s Comic-Con: the biggest comics event in North America! My friend Cindy Marie Jenkins is always interested in how different industries reach their audiences, as well as interactive entertainment and media, so she decided to tap me for a special Navigating the Arts interview about Comic-Con for her innovative Beyond the Blurb live interview series. That will happen this Wednesday night at 8:30 PM Pacific time. You should be able to watch live right here.

I’ve also got a special editorial about Comic-Con appearing later this week, so I’ll post about that once it goes live.

Thank you all for your support!

Caturday: Playing Catch Edition

Here’s a round-up of me on the internet this week:

The Comics Observer launched this week:

Meanwhile, Ten on the Tenth gets tweaked: Announcing the Updated Rules! If a day isn’t enough time for you to think up 10 songs that fit a given theme, you’ll like how it will be run this month and going forward.

And the improv comedy team The Magic Meathands have some Ch-ch-ch-changes to our performance schedule. Short version: We’ve got a show next Saturday night at the Mary Pickford Studio in West Los Angeles, but we say good-bye for now to our monthly Friday show at the Westside Comedy Theater.

Oh and if you’re in Hollywood this weekend, you can go buy some of Joni Mitchell’s furniture. No kidding!

First Time Comic Convention Goer Reviews Comikaze Expo

The Comikaze Expo debuted at the Los Angeles Convention Center at the beginning of November. This brand new comic book convention joins a crowded field to get a major comic con in the city. Many have come and gone over the years. Will this be the one that sticks? Guest-blogger Cindy Marie Jenkins attended Comikaze and shares her thoughts.

Cozying up to Alex Leavitt's laptop

I truly went to this on a whim. A friend threw it out on Google+ and I thought it sounded like fun, and a low-key way to introduce myself to attending conventions. For various reasons in my storytelling world, I need to stay involved in the larger industry.

So I went expecting….what, exactly? The website gave detailed information about the panels and that was encouraging. I knew I would have to decide between some very interesting topics. Scanning through the guests and vendors, I found a lot of brand names or people that I knew and looked interesting. The Guests of Honor, though, left a weird taste in my mouth. I am new to the details of this industry, but I had no idea that the Nickelodeon show “All That” fell into geek culture.

Yeah, that’s because it doesn’t. They were the main attraction though. Stan Lee – very cool – and Elvira – a respectable mainstay, I’m guessing?  – also headlined. I can understand needing a more mainstream attraction like an “All That” Reunion except that, actually, I can’t. Again, I’m new to conventions, but in what alternate universe should Stan Lee be overshadowed by “All That” at a comics convention?

That aside, the event itself was fun. I didn’t know there was a program which is good because they apparently ran out of them in the first hour. I had printed the panels, but no map to the floor. That’s not a big deal; I could wander around the room to decent effect. However, at the entrance they only let people inside two at a time, which left a little excitement to be desired. Translation: way too orderly an entrance to rouse anticipation. It felt like we were being let into a museum.

Jane Espenson *swoon*

On the comics note, I noticed I’m more inclined to risk $1-10 for an issue rather than pick up a free one; most likely because I don’t want to seem like a swag free-loader. Also, cheaper trial issues assured I had enough money for a few of them, rather than blowing my whole budget on one new title to try. That feels more in the vibe of a convention, so new audience can experiment with what they read. I have already enjoyed many of the titles and webseries I found there since last weekend.

The two panels I attended were definitely the most interesting parts of the day. The first was run by Alex Leavitt from USC Annenberg on otaku and the role of anima, manga and otaku in Japanese culture. He braved through a largely visual presentation with no projector, thanks to the Expo simply not providing him one, according to Leavitt. We crowded closer to his laptop, which was actually quite a lovely setting, and we saw the visuals if not the video well enough. Poor young Leavitt also battled the consistent overwhelming cheering of the “All That” Reunion. Overall we got the gist of the topic; I do wish he’d delved deeper into the very interesting examples he gave. I learned what otaku means and have a better idea of how close their geek culture is to ours. We are the world. I would have liked more meat.

The next panel I attended was Character Studies: Geek Girls in Popular Culture, with Jane Espenson, Amy Berg, Cecil Castellucci, Sarah Watson, Sarah Kuhn, Jessica Mills and Stephanie Thorpe. Moderated by Amy Ratcliffe. (Here is a general conference pet peeve: why are panelists’ Twitter addresses not listed anywhere? I missed one of my favorite Twitter personalities, Black Nerd Comedy, because of no program/map, and wasn’t lucky enough to catch his tweets about the event*).

Back to the panel. I am now the biggest fan of Jane Espenson, but that doesn’t take much. She’s awesome and a role model for many of her fellow panelists. This panel was kept kind of upbeat and light, which wasn’t hard with six women incredibly happy with their lives and work. A very humorous moment came when the ASL Interpreter was asked what the sign for “D20” is. She made a motion like rolling a die, and then was careful to demonstrate the difference between that sign and one not quite as G-rated.

These guys are seriously my favorite from MAD magazine of yore

CosPlay fascinates me, but my only venture into it involved east coast renaissance faires so I could show off my sword. At Comikaze, I snapped a few shots while others posed, and had a hard time asking for anyone to pose just for me. The one character I did have the guts to ask was an absolutely stunning Witch King of Angmar; however, by the time I found my courage, his helmet was off so he can eat lunch with his son. I didn’t want to intrude on the Witch King’s lunch. I do wish I’d gotten that picture.

Since one of the biggest reasons I attended was to get a sense of the culture and be prompted to read or watch new stories, Comikaze Expo earns a rousing success. In no particular order, I discovered the League of Extraordinary Ladies, Reed Gunther, The 36, reMind, Shelf Life (had known about through Yuri Lowenthal & Tara Platt but prompted to watch after seeing writer on panel), Awkward Embraces (another I heard enough about but actually watched all of Season 1 yesterday), ran into Comediva again after an intro at the Broad Humor Film Festival (they win for best hook to get people to their booth), Jefbot, The League of S.T.E.A.M. (donated to their kickstarter for Season 2 but first time seeing them in person. They get the best carnival barker award), Americana: The Book Series, Elizabeth Watasin, Jody Houser, Eliza Frye, the Winner Twins (haven’t checked out yet but they self-describe as “identical twin teenage dyslexic scifi authors”), and Olivia Dantes.

A few cool combinations of art and social good, which is a very public crusade of mine: The Winner Twins tour the country with Motivate 2 Learn, “a nonprofit inspiring students to read, write, overcome obstacles and teach their creative writing method.” Princess Leah postcards were everywhere, asking for donations towards medical bills to help a young baby Leah suffering from a mysterious illness; lastly, the California Browncoats have fun fan memorabilia and artist-donated fan calendars that go to different charities. Check them out – support art – help a cause. Everyone wins!

Mandalorians vs. The Leage of S.T.E.A.M.

There were definitely first-year problems. I’m a novice to conventions but not to events or performance, and rather than dwelling on the criticisms I know they’ve received (thank you Facebook), I want to offer some solutions.

*Continue of pet peeve:
Help tweeting loudmouths out and reap the promotional benefits: put the event hashtag everywhere and encourage all speakers, vendors, etc, to post their Twitter addresses as a sign. Point everyone to your business and give them all the tools to help a vendor, and direct everyone following the hashtag to find vendors and artists of their choice. I mostly found out at least ten of my friends were there thanks to the #Comikaze hashtag, and although most intermediate Twitter users pick up on it, encourage its use with signs.

Overall, the flow felt adequate and kind of like an indoor swap meet. I do wonder why more like-minded vendors aren’t placed together. Is it a quandary over competition? I bet if I’d walked through all five steampunk vendors at once, I would have bought something. Ditto for independent comics section. Has this been tried at other conventions and discarded? The autograph area was packed together for sci-fi specific actors, but that left poor Claudia Wells (original Jennifer Parker in Back to the Future) all by her lonesome and way on the other side of the hall. I wasn’t looking for signatures myself (although “The Voice for The Archies” Ron Dante almost got me to buy something), but I can’t imagine the original girlfriend of Marty McFly means much by the time you pass the Lasik Eye Surgery booth, take a left at the guy selling all his Star Wars memorabilia, and finally get to hers.

These pumpkin sculptures were way more impressive when I thought they were real pumpkins

I will absolutely return next year, with a larger budget and more room in my schedule for panels. It’s looking good that many of the titles and series I’ve enjoyed since our introduction are keepers, so the artists get more fans. Multiple crafts vendors got my attention and money, but special artisan beauty goes to Sev’s Wood Crafts, “Where one good turn deserves another!” according to his card. I’m writing about scribes right now, and had a massively difficult time not buying half his stock instead of paying my student loans. The very happy purchase I did make was a dragon-shaped bookmark, created out of turkey vertebrae transformed into beads.

That, plus encouragement for female writers garnered during the Geek Girls panel, was well worth my time and budget. I am confident they’ll listen to the very vocal feedback to improve next year.

———
Cindy Marie Jenkins admits her childhood playmates were Gilbert & Sullivan. She works as a Storyteller and Director of Online Outreach for Social | Impact Consulting LLC. Current writing found at the Blue Dragon Scribe Shoppe and MYTHistories. @CindyMarieJ. She is a big fan of beer. CindyMarieJenkins.com

Happy Nuclear Disaster Day!

Yay!

Wait, that’s not right.

The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant blew up 25 years ago. It was a horrific incident that forever altered countless lives and the surrounding environment. And here we are watching Japan struggle with a partial meltdown (at least) at the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant following the incomprehensible destruction and loss of life from an unprecedented earthquake and tsunami. Different and yet there are some frightening similarities.

Today and tomorrow in the Atwater Village community of Los Angeles, as well as Pasadena, there are several events paying tribute to the original Chernobyl disaster, courtesy of Voices From Chornobyl, a theatrical production adapting a book of interviews with survivors of Chernobyl. I have worked with Cindy Marie Jenkins on this in the past and her handling of this topic is pitch perfect. Never preachy or dogmatic, but sympathetic and humble to this massive event’s effects on real people. The performances of her actors aren’t manipulative, they are heart breaking on their own terms, filled with revelations about how the human condition responds to the unthinkable.

Tuesday, April 26th – 25th Anniversary of Chernobyl

3:30 PM: A special preview of the Hollywood Fringe Festival production of Voices From Chornobyl Jr., a workshop focusing on the disaster’s effects on children’s lives. The free event is for children ages 8+, at the Atwater Village Branch of LA Public Library.

Katya was 9 when the accident at the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant changed her life. After recent events in Japan, a journalist asks Katya and her family about the accident 25 years ago. An interactive and educational story of a young girl struggling with her world, brought to you by the Awareness Team of Voices From Chornobyl. Profits go to Chernobyl Children International.

6-8 PM: Gallery reception for Art From Chernobyl at Kaldi Coffee & Tea, 3147 Glendale Blvd., 90039.

9 PM: Staged Reading of Voices From Chornobyl followed by a talk back session discussing radiation, at Brazilian Yoga & Pilates, 3191 Casitas Ave. #112, 90039.

Wednesday, April 27th

8 PM: Staged Reading of Voices From Chornobyl at CalTech‘s Baxter Hall in Pasadena, sponsored by CalTech’s Engineering & Applied Science and Theater Arts at California Institute of Technology. Snacks & beverages following reading.

How Can You Talk About Radiation When the Butterflies are Flying?

With Japan having just increased the crisis level of the Fukushima Daiichi power plant disaster from four to seven, putting it on par with Chernobyl, it seems like this couldn’t be any more timelier.

I know, sorry. This is going to be a bummer. I know it would be easier to just pretend like this isn’t happening, or that we don’t need to worry ourselves about it. And I know some have doubted the dangers of high radiation levels in Japan, as they did in Chernobyl. Some have downplayed the concern over Japan’s current problems. After all, everything looks fine. But looks can be deceiving. And sometimes it takes a while for things to not look fine. For an example, take a look at these pictures by Robert Knoth from 2006, the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster. Some of those pictures are tough to look at, but they remind me that people like you and me are affected by this. Voices From Chornobyl does the same with even more power. And they bring me to the conclusion that the benefits of nuclear power are not worth the risk.

As we approach the 25th Anniversary of the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster (April 26, 1986), a Voices From Chornobyl staged reading and discussion is taking place this Friday in Hollywood to help raise awareness.

From their press release:

Voices from Chornobyl tells the aftermath of a mismanaged disaster through the words of those who survived. Written and directed by Cindy Marie Jenkins, the play follows six people asking “What is radiation?” and coping with their changing world.

Friday, April 15th
8pm – Play | Reading
9pm – Radiation Talkback
Buy Tickets $10
Paul G. Gleason Theatre, 6520 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles CA 90028

An informal Radiation Talkback will follow the reading.
Run Time: 50 mins.

Featuring: Bradford Beacom, Carolyn Blais, Enci, Aaron Lyons*, Shawn MacAulay* & Kappa Victoria Wood
Written and Directed by: Cindy Marie Jenkins
Produced by: Rachel Stoll and Cindy Marie Jenkins

Cash bar included. Parking and more info at www.voicesfromchornobyl.com.

A note about the Radiation Talkbacks: In light of recent events, friends of the project will discuss radiation and how we can understand it, including questions they ask themselves when faced with news about nuclear power, Japan, radiation levels, and Fukushima vs. Chornobyl. We are not professors nor experts, and you will probably leave with more questions than answers, but we wish to create a framework for understanding how nuclear power actually affects you, and resources as you learn.

Voices From Chornobyl – suddenly way too relevant

Next month marks the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl Disaster. And here we are days after the terrifying earthquake and tsunami in Tohoku, Japan that has resulted in an unstable situation at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant.

It’s true that the two incidents do not have a direct 1:1 correlation. The nuclear power plant industry learned from that previous horrible incident but there’s still so much that we don’t know about this method of powering electricity. And there are still a lot of disturbing parallels between April 26, 1986, and the days and weeks that followed, and what is happening now.

“This is for thousands of years.”

I’ve seen some people dismiss the warnings and concerns with figures of low death counts from nuclear incidents. But our attention should not be determined by loss of life. The quality of life in Chernobyl was irreversibly changed, just as it is being changed forever in Japan.

In 2008, I served as associate producer for the above short demo of a dramatization by Cindy Marie Jenkins of a book of interviews of Chernobyl survivors. It’s called Voices from Chornobyl. If this video captures 1/10th of the heartbreak the people of Chernobyl went through then, or that the people of Japan are going through now, and gets you or someone you forward this on to, to consider helping the people of either region in the ongoing aftermath, I’ll feel like maybe I did something right.

Smiles for Japan: $25 art commissions by manga artist Nina Matsumoto will send 100% to Japan Society's Earthquake Relief Fund (click image for more info)

To fit in the comics side of me, manga artists in Japan have been expressing their support and encouragement through a wonderful series of art with a “Smiles for Japan” theme. Robot 6 has links to work by popular creators like Takehiko Inoue (Vagabond), Akira Toriyama (Dragon Ball), Naoki Urasawa (20th Century Boys), Kanata Konami (Chi’s Sweet Home), Arina Tanemura (The Gentlemen’s Alliance Cross), Nina Matsumoto (Yokaiden) and more. (If only I could read Japanese.)

Also, Meltdown Comics (7522 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90046) is holding an art auction called We Heart Japan this Thursday, March 17, 8 PM – 11 PM, with 100% of proceeds going to the Japan NGO Earthquake Relief and Recovery Fund. The event was organized by anime voice actor Stephanie Sheh (Naruto) and comic book artist/graphic designer Pinguino Kolb.

To learn more about the ongoing Voices From Chornobyl project, please visit their website.

To donate to the Red Cross and their efforts to help the Japanese Red Cross respond to the earthquake/tsunami disaster, please visit their website.

And to get activisty for a moment: To learn more about the risks of nuclear power, visit NukeFree.org.

(For detail freaks like myself, the alternate spelling of Chernobyl in the title is a more accurate English spelling of the original Ukrainian name of the city.)

Why Chornobyl?

On April 26, 1986, the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant had a little oopsie.

Four hundred times the radioactivity that was dropped on Hiroshima exploded less than 2 miles south of Pripyat, a city of 50,000 people. So, imagine Biloxi, Mississippi. Or Ames, Iowa. Or Sheboygan, Wisconsin*. 36 hours later, the city was evacuated. So was Chernobyl, located 9 miles south. So was every village and town within a 19-mile radius.

Ten years following the disaster, author Svetlana Aleksievich conducted a series of interviews with survivors and published it as Voices From Chernobyl.

Nearly ten years after that, director Cindy Marie Jenkins began adapting the book for the stage. Last year, I served as associate producer for a demo of her adaptation Voices From Chornobyl, which has been used to promote a series of anniversary readings this month to commemorate the anniversary of the Chernobyl Disaster.

Earlier this year, Cindy and several of her amazing actors (Aaron Lyons,  Enci, Kappa Victoria Wood, and Shawn MacAulay) were interviewed to explain “Why Chornobyl”. I had nothing to do with this project (although I suppose I was at an early meeting where we discussed having something like this made, so sure, I’ll take credit for it, thanks!), but I think it’s a great companion to what I worked on and is an excellent reminder of why something that happened over 20 years ago is still worthy of our attention. Lysandra Petersson created the following:

During the month of April, the rights to perform the play Voices From Chornobyl are free to anyone who donates at least 75% of their proceeds to a Chornobyl Charity. See the VFC site for more details.

* Yes, I snuck in Sheboygan, one of my favorite goofy words, into something that’s supposed to be serious. I am a disrespectful and heartless punk.