Fifty Shades of Confused: Why do people like this book?
June 15th, 2012
10:47 AM ET

Fifty Shades of Confused: Why do people like this book?

A few weeks ago, I heard the sort of whispered murmurs in my local bookstore that are reserved solely for people who want to buy books that they don't want other people to know they are buying. Furtive glances and giggles echoed back as happy customers walked out the door, peering into the brown paper bags containing such worthwhile literature.

Interest piqued, I asked the clerk what book the women had purchased.

"Oh, 'Fifty Shades of Grey,'" she replied. "You don't know about that?"

I was a bit late to the party, admittedly. The novel came out last year and has since drummed up a tremendous amount of attention. A British author named E.L. James penned it as "Twilight" fanfiction at first, then rewrote it with original characters. It tells the story of  a young, inexperienced woman and an older man with a taste for whips and chains. It's like the "Twilight" craze all over again, but with less supernatural creatures and more bondage gear.

I thought I got why everyone wanted to slink out of the store with this book. I spend plenty of time appreciating Japanese and Korean male idols, and I love their sexy photo shoots. "Fifty Shades of Grey" has lots of titillating themes: hot people having hot sex, wish fulfillment, virgin and master. What's not to like?

But I read it. And I just don't get it. FULL POST

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Is a comic book character's sexual orientation really news?
Cover art from "Earth 2."
June 12th, 2012
04:34 PM ET

Is a comic book character's sexual orientation really news?

Editor's note: Erika D. Peterman is a Florida-based writer and editor, and the co-creator of the comics blog

After DC Comics made it official that Green Lantern Alan Scott is gay, the reaction from the Trolliverse was as predictable as it was ridiculous. On Facebook, a friend hilariously mocked the all-caps, incorrectly punctuated outrage thusly:


It’s safe to say that those people didn’t pick up “Earth 2” No. 2 last week, when Scott made his debut in the relaunched DC Universe. Gay characters in mainstream comics aren’t new, but DC took a chance in changing the sexual orientation of an established character like Scott. Before the relaunch, he was a middle-aged hero whose son, Obsidian, was gay.

The coy, press-baiting runup to the announcement is another matter. FULL POST

Bridging the geek divide with Dad
Joe Peacock with his dad in 1996 in Jonesboro, Georgia. This is what an actual, aged poloroid picture looks like.
June 11th, 2012
12:25 PM ET

Bridging the geek divide with Dad

Editor's note: When he's not teaching the Internet how to fist-fight, why being weird is awesome or how to self-publish your own books, Joe Peacock tours the world, showing his extensive "Akira" art collection. He's searching the internet for the perfect gift for his dad.

I first saw the legendary animated film "Akira" when I was twelve years old.

The year was 1989, and it was released in the US very sporadically. There was a student-run screening at the University of Georgia that I found out about via a flyer at my local comic book shop. I asked - nay, begged - my father to take me. Despite the fact that it was on a school night and took place nearly two and a half hours away, he knew this was a big event for me. So he agreed.

He picked me up from school and drove me to Athens, Georgia. We had pizza and visited the local comic book shop to kill time until the screening at 8:00 PM. Normally, my father would be in bed around the time that the film would be half over, since he got up at 4:30 AM every single morning - but for that night, he toughed it out. The film ran two hours and nineteen minutes, and IT. WAS. BEAUTIFUL.

Life-changing, even. It didn't matter that the screening was from a ratty multiple-copied VHS tape a student at the University of Georgia's film club scored at a comic convention. It didn't even matter that the film wasn't subtitled or dubbed. I knew enough from the American edition of the "Akira" manga to derive the overall plot, and the static on the top and bottom edges of the screen was hardly noticeable.

We rode in silence for a short while on the way home. I was agog from what I'd just seen - my favorite manga brought to life in full color 24-frame-per-second fully hand-painted animation. The epic battle between Kaneda and Tetsuo in all its frenetic glory. Explosions. Motorcycle chases. Cataclysm.

I studied the fan-made, fold-over program cover to cover at least thirty times. I studied my insanely expensive, imported "Akira" shirt featuring Kaneda holding his laser rifle that I'd spent a month's worth of lawn mowing pay on.

I was in heaven.

It was about twenty miles into our journey that my father turned to me, cleared his throat, and asked, "Joe... what the HELL did we just watch?" FULL POST

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For Broadway fans, a moment in the sun
After years of begging, fans of Disney's cult favorite film "Newsies" finally got a Broadway adaptation this season.
June 8th, 2012
08:00 AM ET

For Broadway fans, a moment in the sun

Everything's coming up roses for musical theater enthusiasts lately.

Broadway has always had hardcore fans, of course. But as much as the true theater dorks (among whom I count myself!) might hate to admit it, musical theater is now, well, sort of cool. And profitable.

Musicals are where it's at. Wonderful World of Disney lovers are leaping to get tickets to "Newsies," which was nominated for eight Tonys. And every celebrity wants to gain some street cred by starring in a Broadway show: Daniel Radcliffe showed he can dance (if not sing) in "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying." And Christie Brinkley (yes, the uptown girl herself) is starring in "Chicago."

I trace this surge in popularity back to 2006's "High School Musical." Sure, I despised it (and the endless sequels) with a fervent passion, as any true musical nerd would. It turned our beloved world into a pop singer-filled, Disney Channel-style, teenybopper show. But it served a purpose: It turned a new audience on to how much fun musical theater really can be.

And then we entered the age of "Glee. "


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Broadway geeks out behind the scenes
Times Square looks infinitely deeper when viewed through geek glasses.
June 7th, 2012
04:44 PM ET

Broadway geeks out behind the scenes

Broadway performers appear in approximately 416 shows per year – often while singing and dancing simultaneously. Repeatedly. For over two hours. No director yells “Cut!” if someone misses an entrance or an actor flubs a line. No editing occurs if the pace is too slow or continuity is interrupted.

What you’re actually witnessing when you’re watching a Broadway show are people who possess the passion many of us geeks are known for.

Broadway is a specialized niche of geekery. In addition to identifying as “theater geeks,” many of those involved in Broadway are also “geeks” in other ways - technologically, humor-wise and through self-identification as oddballs and underdogs.

Some say the Tony Awards, which are being held this weekend, are not so different from the celebration of San Diego Comic-Con. With so many like-minded geeks in one place, there's bound to be a pun or two.


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