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1066

MegaSteakMan: Now With Swords

Interviews, Showcase, Webseries

November 14, 2013

318929_162226113858943_199443141_nSince making a huge splash online just over three years ago with their gritty spoof trailer Pokémon Apokélypse, the team at MegaSteakMan have delivered dozens of hilarious high-concept comedy sketches. Their dynamic, if not hyperactive, visual style is unmistakable. Now they are taking that pop-culture-fuelled energy, loading it into blender and pouring it into the comedic fantasy webseries Girls With Swords.

I had a chance to pry MegaSteakMan creator Kial Natale away from his editing bay for an hour for some coffee and here is some snippets of our lengthy converstaion:

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656

Minus World Improv

Showcase

November 11, 2013

Minus World Improv Logo

Wednesday night marked the premiere of local improv troupe The Fictionals’ latest venture – a video game themed show titled “Minus World Improv” (for those of you without a background in classic video games, the title references a glitch level in Super Mario Bros. from which there is no escape). In a town that not only boasts a number of game studios, but an emerging social scene focusing on the nerd culture, the time seems ripe to test the waters with a genre based improv show. (more…)

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3222

A Eulogy for Batwoman

Fail, Showcase

October 19, 2013

Batwoman_Vol_2_1Some people harp on me for reading comics.

There’s this idea that comics are somehow a lesser art form, something meant for children. Some writers in the medium even believe that, letting that sense of disdain fill their works and turn them into petty indulgences that do nothing but celebrate encroaching nihilism. We’re told that in this cynical and meaningless world, where we all believe in commercial materialistic hedonism, that there are no such things as heroes and that we should worship emptiness as an ideal and drug away what feeling and passion we have.

Everything becomes corrupt. Our ideals, our dreams, everything tainted by this strange editorial mandate that we’ve let into our lives that says that we don’t matter, that our actions mean nothing, that there are no consequences. Morality is a sham, we’re told, a lie that covers the fear of getting caught. And the stories we’re growing up with now reflect this idea, this ongoing degradation of what was once the human soul.

Pretty grim stuff. How does this tie to comics? We’re getting there. Bear with me.

I remember trying to share the first book in A Song of Ice and Fire with my family almost twenty years ago. I was scoffed at back then, told to get my heads out of the clouds, that no one cared about stupid fantasy stories. I was told that the books I was reading had no worth or value by a lot of the elders I was supposed to be learning from and respecting. Now, of course, the book has become a television series called Game of Thrones and those same people call me, asking for details on something they once told me had no value. It is endlessly, endlessly frustrating.

BW_Cv17Works of quality are qualitative due to their substance, not their style. Style helps, certainly, but what makes a story meaningful is the impact it has on the people who take it to heart. I made a lot of friends through comics and role-playing games and other things I was told were a waste of time. I took comfort – not escape, but comfort – in being able to connect with other people that understood those stories the same way I did. Communities were formed, relationships made and honed.

Some comics have moved out of the “kid-zone” mentality that cripples the perception of so many people. Watchmen, V for Vendetta, Transmetropolitan, Road to Perdition, Sandman, Cairo, these and their ilk are comics that it’s somehow okay for adults to like. Call them graphic novels, not comics, like that somehow magically makes them something other than a comic book.

And they’re not, right? Comics are the venue of the cape-and-spandex set. You know, them. The superheroes that we look down on and scoff for their simplistic moralities and endless futile struggles until they become big movies and then it’s somehow okay to like them. Spider-Man, the X-Men, and Batman. Them.

Childish, right?

Let me explain how childish.

BW_Cv26The smart ones liked Spider-Man. He represented the shunted genius bullied for the crime of being smart, a man gifted by accident who lost sight of the responsibilities his that came with that gift just once and could never live with himself because of it. Genius comes with a price, Spider-Man taught us, and failing because of the casual cruelty of others made us worse than those others, because we have the power to make a difference, to make this world a better place.

The different ones liked the X-Men. Hated for being different in ways that really weren’t all that strange comparatively, but made all the difference in the world for those who had learned to hate. The X-Men taught us to stand up for ourselves, to find a family of one another, to understand that just because other people had given into a fashionable hatred didn’t mean that we had to. We could fight for the right to be ourselves, and we had every right to explore the people we wanted to be. We could create a place for ourselves in this world, and make the world better thereby.

The broken ones liked Batman. He was traumatized, like us, and he was terrified, like us, but the core of him wasn’t vengeance or hate or anything so base. No, the core of Batman was a simple shattered boy who could not stand the idea of anyone suffering what he had suffered, a child who would not stand for the evil that the adults around him allowed to exist. Batman confronted the terrors of the world by becoming the most terrible thing in it, but he stood for protection, for reason, for an intelligent and measured response to the madness that defines so much of his and our world.

The heroes helped those of us that were helpless, not by being in our world but by showing us the people we could be. There wasn’t anyone in our world to look up to, the endless parade of fake celebrities and drug addled sports stars and corrupt politicians. We looked at them and we swore to ourselves that we would be better, not because it was possible but because we couldn’t stand to be any less. These stories shaped our childhoods, our teenage dreams, and followed us into adulthood.

Batwoman_Vol_1-0_Cover-2DC Comics was a big part of that. Yes, I only listed one of their properties above. I’ve done that consciously – their recent narrative decisions and business practices are not ones we care to endorse. We tried to ignore them, to praise them for the the things they were doing right, and of those things Batwoman was the greatest.

The extended Batman family is the most important and diverse mythology that DC Comics has developed. In it, though, all things and characters are subservient to and serve Batman. Even Batwoman, in her original form, was initially brought about to be nothing more than a love interest, a forgettable character that was largely forgotten until Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III revisited her a half decade ago.

What they crafted was mindblowing. An equal to Batman, someone that took him as an inspiration to become the person she needed to be. Kate Kane was brilliant, and the stories that grew around her were perfect. The art that accompanied those stories was tremendous, among the greatest to ever grace the pages of any comic book in the history of the medium. It was the best of what DC had to offer, a shining example of what they could be if they chose to be.

Batwoman was there for the smart ones, the different ones, and the broken ones. She was about choice, about owning destiny and finding her own place in the world, about crafting her own family. She fought monsters out of urban legend, the sorts of things that prey on or invert love itself, and she did so without stopping. Even when she was blackmailed into working for people she couldn’t stand, she stayed true to herself and her beliefs and her world was a better place for it. It was awe-inspiring.

Changes were happening at DC Comics, but while we were promised something great all we ended up with was the nu52, a publicity stunt that has resulted in bad stories and little else of note. Rucka was driven out, but Williams III and Haden Blackman fought for Batwoman and managed to make her a part of what was to come – the best part of what was to come. No less than the New York Times called Batwoman “the most satisfying read of the new DC 52.”

batwoman10And it was. Make no mistake, this comic deserved every bit of praise it was given. This was a work of genius, expanding on the themes of the mini-series and then some, giving depth and life to a world that was beautifully rendered. Batwoman was easily one of the best comics that DC had ever produced in the entirety of their eighty plus years of publishing comics, the sort of thing that anyone would have been proud to be a part of.

Naturally, DC decided to honor the integrity of the creators attached to it.

Wait. No. They did the opposite of that. The DC editorial board, who like to take time from insulting their fans to insult their writers, decided to make Batwoman better by adding their unique slant to this story, a creeping taint that had driven away many of their best creative minds from other titles already. The people running DC right now seem to hate comics, to hate their characters and their staff and their fans.

They’re pushing the same materialistic nihilism that we once used their characters to fight. There’s been a couple of holdouts, but by-and-large DC Comics have become unreadable. There’s actually an edict from one of their higher-ups that states that none of their heroes are allowed to have personal happy lives, that no one is allowed to even be okay. All their heroes have to be miserable, as if heroism and misery are somehow tied together.

DC Comics once published a world where heroism was lauded and celebrated. Several of their heroes were public figures, well known private individuals with histories that stretched back and informed their world. There were museums dedicated to particular heroes, holidays and public parks. This was a world that lived its heroes.

Batwoman_Vol_1-9_Cover-1The reboot changed that. The heroes were now reviled, and their world hated and distrusted them, and in many cases they earned that hatred and distrust. By making them and their world miserable, the DC editorial staff made a mockery of everything that their characters were supposed to be about. Their comics and their mythos are a barely comprehensible mess, and someone at some point is going to have to fix it if they’re going to have any properties worthy of the name.

In spite of this, Batwoman was the single greatest achievement anyone at DC had accomplished in years, maybe decades.

The editorial staff responded to this work of beautiful genius by driving the people that gave us this gift away. They got rid of Rucka, drove away Williams III and Haden Blackman. They spoke of compromise, of having their creatives meet them in the middle of what they wanted, but anytime those creatives tried to do so the editorial staff moved further and further back, trying to pull what was excellent into the mire of mediocrity that they had made of everything else.

We don’t know what the future of Batwoman is now. It’s a safe assumption that the comic will fade into the grimdark nightmare of banality that has defined the rest of the nu52.

It’s important to mark this passing. Batwoman was everything that DC Comics should be and won’t be any more. We think it’s important to thank Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman for giving us something that we really loved and cared about, something that was utterly fantastic.

You guys are great, and we’re so sorry for your loss.

Batwoman_Vol_2_1We say this because Batwoman was the sort of character that could inspire those that needed her in our world. She was larger than life, an icon, a totem, and the DC Comics editorial staff will reduce her to something just as crippled as all the rest of their caricatures.

The fictional world and the real one are both worse off for her passing.

Batwoman, 2009-2013.

Rest in peace, soldier.

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1212

Dreamz: Waking You Up

Interviews, Music, Showcase

October 16, 2013

Dreamz - logoTo many of their fans online, they were already Team Andrew, but earlier this year, frequent collaborators Andrew Huang and Andrew Gunadie (aka Gunnarolla) cemented a pop music partnership and formed Dreamz. The Toronto-based musicians and YouTube personalities introduced their new duo with several covers of classic boyband songs and have recently released the video for their debut single “Come On” with a second coming shortly. Dreamz delivers some fun and lively melodies that manage to be both old school and contemporary with a healthy dose of the pair’s wit and charm.

We’ve had a chance to speak to both Huang and Gunnarolla about their solo work, but let’s touch base with them on how Dreamz came to be:

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3247

EpicLLOYD: Epic Raps For Hire

Interviews, Music, Showcase, Webseries

September 24, 2013

EpicLLOYD2There probably aren’t too many people who can stake claim to having their breakout role be  a rapping Adolph Hitler. But for rapper and comedian Lloyd Ahlquist, it’s just another day at the office. Ahlquist, better known to the world as EpicLLOYD, is the co-creator for the enormously successful YouTube series Epic Rap Battles of History, which is now entering its third season.

But Lloyd hasn’t stopped there. At the same time he has been putting out original music on his own channel and created another popular series called Dis Raps For Hire. As the name implies, EpicLLOYD takes suggestions from viewers who are having issues with others and formulates a verbal smackdown in their defense.

Lloyd was awesome enough to chat sit down for a quick video chat to discuss all of his various works. So without any further ado, here we go:

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989

Gunnarolla: A-POP, Please

Interviews, Music, Showcase

September 17, 2013

Better known to the internet-world as Gunnarolla, Ontario-native Andrew Gunadie has been bringing his original, ecclectic mix of music, comedy and vlogs on YouTube for more than six years. In that time his channel has garnered over eleven-million views, fuelled by an avid fanbase that Andrew is constantly engaging and several ongoing video series like “We Are What You Tweet”, “New State Plates” and “Songs About People”. (more…)

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1485

Alyssa Marie: For The Record

Interviews, Music, Showcase

September 5, 2013

alyssa-marieIn a genre rife with posturing and boasts about shallow excesses, Massachusetts-native Alyssa Marie stands out by bringing heart and soul to the rap world. Her words come from the gut and boldly dig into the emotion of her subject matter with an honesty and wisdom far beyond her twenty-four years.

Alyssa has been honing her craft since the age of fifteen and since 2009 has been posting verses on YouTube. In that time, her channel has surpassed two-million views and now with three releases under her belt -most recently 2012’s full-legth album HeartBeat– and another due by the end of the year, people are definitely starting to take notice.

 

GREG: I know you had started out writing poetry, and being a published poet at that. How did you transition from that into rapping?
ALYSSA: I’ve been writing poetry for as long as I can remember, I’m not really sure when or how I started to write rap lyrics. I’ve always been a fan of music and hip hop specifically and I think it started as just another outlet for my writing. It’s not like I was writing poetry then stopped and decided to rap instead; I was writing poetry first, then somewhere along the line began to write rhymes and rap lyrics. Eventually the two just merged together and created the conscious style of rap that I write now.

As your career was starting up, did you have any major influences or mentors along the way?
As far as rappers I listened to at the beginning stages of my own development as an artist, I’d say Nas, Eminem, Pac, Kis, Fabolous, Rakim, Bone Thugz, Luda, Pun, Banks, and a bunch of others that I can’t think of at the moment. As I got older I was better at finding my own people to listen to and got into some more poetic rappers.
If you download the album W!se Reborn (here), that’s who I’d call my mentor. Martin (“Wise”) was the first person to put me on a track; he offered music and life advice I still put to use every day. I don’t know where I’d be without him. Unfortunately, he passed away a few weeks after we had a falling out and I never got to tell him that, but I’ll never forget it.

Seemingly, hip-hop still really appears to be very predominantly a “boys’ club”, much more than any other genre of contemporary music. Did you find it hard gaining acceptance at the outset? Do you still?
It’s definitely a two-sided coin. On one side of it, you get the “wow” factor just being a female that can handle a mic. It’s easier to impress people and get them to show their friends like “yo, look at this chick rip it!”, but I think it’s significantly more difficult to be taken serious. You may get that first reaction which is cool, but how many people are going to download your stuff and put you in with their favorite rappers? Sure, maybe their favorite female rappers, but that’s not what I’m in it for. I don’t rap about gender specific things, I’m just trying to share my stories and be heard. It’s just not as socially acceptable in hip hop to name a female as one of your favorite rappers without putting “female” in front of it. I’m patient though, there’s enough open minded people to make it worth it.

alyssa-marie3

One thing that has always stood out to me most in your music is that really seems to come from the soul, that its very true to yourself. Is having that honest connection with your audience important to you?
It’s extremely important to me. I know what it’s like to turn to music hoping to feel understood or feel like a song was written for you. Coming across someone who you can relate to so honestly is a beautiful thing, it’s and even more intense experience being on the artist side of it. Reading mail or comments from people saying you saved their life with your words, there’s nothing that can describe that feeling. I have pride in what I do, my music is an enormous part of who I am and if I’m not truthful with that, I’m lying to myself.

Your YouTube channel is just shy of hitting thirty-thousand subscribers and over two million views. How big of a factor has that been in getting your work noticed?
YouTube has been a huge tool in escalating my music career up to now. From entering contests to remixing songs, it’s jump started my success and still serves a great purpose in getting my work out there. Though it was difficult to break free of the “YouTube Rapper” stigma, I wouldn’t be where I am without it.

Your most recent album HeartBeat went through a lot of growth from its inception to its release. Can you tell us a bit about what happened there and what your approach was?
A big majority of HeartBeat was written and recorded all in a three week timespan. It started out as a completely different project with different songs and vibes, but throughout the creation of it more than half of them were cut out and new songs were added. I was lucky to have Beatblocked be so helpful in the engineering side of it because we were literally still recording forty minutes prior to the digital release of the record.

In a recent vlog update, you teased an upcoming project called No Parades On Easy Street. Is there any more detail we can get on that?
This passed winter I went out to visit my sister who was going to school out in Hawaii. I got there and ended up falling in love with it and decided to stay with her until she came home at the end of May. We were literally eating one meal a day and could barely even afford that, but we made it work and I was able to write this new record in the process. Again, even since leaving Hawaii I’ve altered the track list and cut/added songs, but the majority was still made out there. It’s coming soon though, just tying up loose ends.

Thanks for taking the time to talk with us! Any parting thoughts you’d like to share?
Thanks for having me, I hope everyone reading this keeps checking for me as I continue trying to figure this confusing career out.

[box] LINKS

Website: www.alyssamariehiphop.com
YouTube: www.youtube.com/alysssaMariiie
Facebook: www.facebook.com/alyssamarieraps
Twitter: www.twitter.com/alysssaMariiie
Bandcamp: alyssamarie.bandcamp.com
Pure Volume: www.purevolume.com/new/AlyssaMarieMusic
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Stunts and Spells: Leo Kei Angelos

Interviews, Showcase, Webseries

August 27, 2013

With his action and stunt-filled short films, director Leo Kei Angelos has started making a name for himself online. His forays into fan films have especially made people take notice. The Vietnamese-born Angelos immigrated to the United States to pursue his dream of making movies in 2006 and with his recent move from New York to Los Angeles and the imminent release of his long awaited Harry Potter-inspired webseries, Auror’s Tale, that dream looks like its just around the corner. (more…)

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726

Running Red Lights

Interviews, Music, Projects, Showcase, Videos

August 16, 2013

What’s this? A video interview with Toronto based indy band, Running Red Lights.  These talented musicians met up with Gregory Milne for our first ever On Air Google Hangout.  With a new single and a tour of the Pacific Northwest coming this September, they shared their music live from their place and gave us an intimate concert.  The first of many live video interviews that we stream on our Google+ page. Make sure you follow us there and come join in on the fun.

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Website: www.runningredlights.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RunningRedLights
Twitter: @rrlmusic
YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/rrlmusic
SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/running-red-lights

Living Myth Media on Google +

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