Category Archives: Random Ness Monster
As 2014 draws to a close, you’re no doubt inundated with “Best of” and “Worst of” lists all over the place. Try as we might, we couldn’t resist the urge to try a couple of those ourselves to see what the fuss is about. So, we sat down with our good friends Eric Van Tassell and Ele Matelan (both of Specimen fame, among other things) to list our top genre movies and television shows of the year. We had a couple of great in-depth chats and the results are here in our two bonus year-end podcasts!
Best Genre TV shows of 2014 Podcast
Best Genre movies of 2014 Podcast
And of course, everyone’s got an opinion, so let us know yours! Send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org or drop a note on our Facebook page!
“I think people over here, they’re far too down on American history: ‘Oh, well, we have no history because we’re such a young country.’ But that’s not true at all. It’s such a rich history that you guys have. And now we’re utterly bastardizing it.” – Tom Mison, actor, Sleepy Hollow
In between the new season of Walking Dead and the amazing formerly-lost-forever Doctor Who episodes, I’ve been taking a look at some of the new TV shows that premiered this fall. One of them is Fox’s Sleepy Hollow. The show is pretty astounding, mainly in its ability to unabashedly borrow from so many iconic TV series and still attempt to be unique and new. It has the believer/skeptic dynamic of The X-Files’ Mulder and Scully front and center (with Orlando Jones standing in for Mitch Pileggi’s Walter Skinner). It has a Holmes/Watson vibe going on, complete with Tom Mison as a low-rent Benedict Cumberbatch clone. It trots out the same “Book of Revelations Is Actually Happening” storyline we saw in Season 5 of Supernatural. And so on. The storyline about Abbie and Jenny, two sisters who are traumatized at a young age by experiencing a supernatural event and wind up on completely different life paths as a result, and then come back together as adults to chase/face their demons, is in many ways a cooler setup for a show than the time-displaced Ichabod Crane, and I kinda wish I could watch that show instead. Wait, I already do, but it’s about two brothers named Winchester…
But none of those things are the thing that really bugs me about Sleepy Hollow.* Here’s the thing that really bugs me: Ichabod Crane.
Crane is, in this incarnation of the tale, a man who was born in England in the 18th century, educated at Oxford and part of George Washington’s Colonial army – specifically, the “fighting supernatural baddies” part of Washington’s army. And I understand why the show’s creators needed him to be something other than the slightly conceited, fraidy-cat small-town schoolteacher from Washington Irving’s short story, because that guy would never have been able to be the heroic center of a supernatural adventure show set in the 21st century. It’s that first bit that gives me pause: Born. In. England. In Irving’s story, Ichabod Crane was a native of Connecticut. Born after the Revolutionary War, so he’s American, whereas even if Tom Mison’s quarter-century-older Crane had been born in America he would’ve been a British citizen.
Why is this a big deal? I hear you cry.
It’s a big deal because of the place “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” holds in the history of the United States of America. Irving wrote his tale at a time when the USA was a very young country, which had yet to be taken entirely seriously by the superpowers of the time (whether we’re taken entirely seriously now is a discussion outside the scope of this post). In terms of art, music, and literature, countries like England, France and Spain were decades or centuries ahead of us. The U.S. had no literary canon, no folkloric tradition; in 1819 we hadn’t had much time to develop any. Washington Irving was the guy who gave Americans our first taste of having a national mythology and authors we could call our own. As such, it’s probably no accident that Ichabod Crane was an American by birth – he was, after all, one of the nation’s very first fictional protagonists. Why in the world would you make him French, or German, or – heaven forfend – English?
People argue about whether Batman should be played by a Welshman, or whether they should ever cast an American to play James Bond. This is different. This is like rewriting Bond as a CIA agent, born in Louisville, Kentucky, or better yet, making King Arthur a Saxon.
I don’t think that would go over so well.
Note: my complaint is concerned with literary tradition. It starts and ends there. It’s not about nationalism or politics. Please keep those aspects out of any comments you decide to post, and please do not attempt to ascribe any political motivations to me or my little essay. Thank you.
*Though the fact that we’re what, five episodes in and Ichabod is still wearing 18th century clothes kinda drives me up a wall. Abbie even told him to start wearing contemporary clothes. Come on!
Recently I was at a trade show here in Chicago, doing field recordings of the crowds milling around. As I walked from the food court area to a spot near the registration desk, a young woman spotted me and noticed the large microphone and digital recorder I had hanging around my neck.
“That’s cool,” she said, and asked what I was doing. I explained that I was a sound designer and that I was collecting sounds for my library.
“Do you do sound for movies?” Yes, movies sometimes, and also theatre, advertising, and so on.
“Wow,” she said, “it’s awesome that you have your own sounds to use. I get so sick of hearing the same baby cry sound in every movie! It really wrecks the film for me.”
That was an important thing for me to hear. I hear sound designers talk all the time about sounds that get re-used ad nauseam, and I imagine we tend to think we’re the only ones who are bugged by it. But this woman isn’t a sound designer. She’s not a sci-fi fanatic picking out every instance of the Wilhelm Scream. I’m sure the sound effects probably aren’t first in her mind when she’s watching a movie – so if she’s noticing it, there’s a problem.
Like other sound designers, I certainly rely pretty heavily on my commercial sound effects libraries. Time and budget and a whole host of other factors dictate that I can’t make a fresh new sound for everything I work on. But I do try to build and maintain my own personal library (and she was pleased to hear that I do have my own sounds of a baby crying and rarely use the library babies), and use those sounds instead of library stuff whenever I can. And every now and then, while I’m standing there with the mic in my hand and the headphones on, I get a really great reminder of why I’m going to the trouble of doing it.
Lots going on in Toxic Bag Land lately! We’ve completely revamped toxicbag.com, making it easier to find the sounds you need for your game. Individual track downloads will be enabled soon.
A delightful conceit… after carefully creating a completely fictitious movie soundtrack so that you can generate the right background and moon for your horror game without distracting players who have seen whatever horror movie whose soundtrack you might otherwise be using…
They give you some movie posters and adverts for the fictitious movie that the soundtrack was purportedly written for!
Even before I’ve finished listening to the soundtrack – and I tend to use music as background and inspiration when WRITING rather than playing games – this has spawned a plot.
In theater sound-design news, I just wrapped up a production of “Richard III” and am now working on a production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Lotta Shakespeare this year!
We’ve also been working on audio post-production for our friend Eric Neal’s short film, “Fate Accompli.” We did a day of foley work last week and a temp mix for a Friday night screening of the film in Chicago.
We’re also a few days away from the “Specimen” photo shoot, which will provide many of the images for the game. Costumes and props are all looking spectacular, and we’re very excited about it. We’ll be posting some of those shots early next week, and hopefully have some other news as well (I can say no more).
Years ago, we took an afternoon off and shot some tongue-in-cheek commercials for our Game Masters and Battles products, as well as the DVD for the Bag Witch Project. We put ’em on a DVD and played them at the convention booths, and then kinda forgot about them.
Going through the office this week in search of something that might sound like an ejector seat, we stumbled on the master tape of those spots. Shameless goofs that we are, we put them up on our YouTube channel. No one’s seen these since GenCon 2001…enjoy!
More embarrassing old Toxic Bag vids at our YouTube channel.
Once again we wish you all a Happy Delia Derbyshire‘s birthday!
Your Dose of Delia for today is Moogies Bloogies, Delia Derbyshire with Anthony Newley. Enjoy!
My friend and business partner, Steve “Blood” Baldwin has started a new feature on his “Blood Work” blog. He’s reviewing horror films, new and old, and then talking about things in those films that a Game Master might take away for use in a role-playing game setting.