Category Archives: Entertainment

Articles about various forms of entertainment

An interview with New Orleans burlesque beauty and naughty nerd – Xena Zeit-Geist!

Xena Zeit-Geist as Batman in her Bat-Jammies at the opening of "Arkham ASS-YLUM!"
Xena Zeit-Geist as Batman in her Bat-Jammies at the opening of “Arkham ASS-YLUM!”

Intro: Xena Zeit-Geist is the stage name of a popular New Orleans artist, dancer, Burlesque and Nerdlesque performer.  Catch her as Princess Leia on 12/30/2016 and next weekend at Wizard World in New Orleans January 6-8, 2017.

John N Collins (JNC): Thanks for agreeing to an interview with me Xena! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Xena Zeit-Geist (XZG): Thanks for having me, John! Well, I’m a full-time New Orleans burlesque performer and producer, and I specialize in producing, writing, directing, and performing in satirical burlesque plays with pop culture themes. I’m the Founder and Artistic Director of The Society of Sin, New Orleans’ premiere nerdlesque troupe, and I basically spend my time creating and embodying live-action fan fiction.

(JNC): How did you get into the performing arts? Burlesque?

(XZG): I’ve been interested in performing since I was really young — one of my earliest memories, maybe from age 3 or 4, is going to see the Rockettes with my family and running up onto the stage to dance with them. I loved the show so much and thought that the dancers were so beautiful that I wanted to be apart of it more than anything. I took acting classes when I was young and wrote a lot of scripts that I’d force my sisters and neighborhood kids to be in. I got into burlesque when I was about 23. I was working a day job at an advertising agency, occasionally picking up shifts as a dancer at local strip clubs, and working on my creative writing in my off hours, but I was feeling pretty unfulfilled, creatively speaking. My partner at the time suggested that I look into burlesque and introduced me to one of the big New Orleans burlesque producers & performers, Trixie Minx, who started hiring me to help out with her shows, and I loved it immediately. Within a couple of months, Remy Dee (who I now refer to as my “burlesque fairy godmother”) hired me to play the part of “Lock the Demon Trick-or-Treater” in her Nightmare Before Christmas burlesque show, and the rest is history.

Nerdlesque image

(JNC): What is Nerdlesque?

(XZG): Nerdlesque combines the classic art of the striptease with nerd culture. In a typical nerdlesque act, a performer will choose an iconic character from one of their favorite fandoms and use costuming, dance, props, and striptease to tell a little of the character’s story. You don’t have to necessarily portray a character, for instance, Sailor St. Claire does a beautiful fan dance as the ship Serenity from “Firefly” and Franki Markstone has an award-winning nerdlesque act where she dresses in Gryffindor colors with a Snitch in her hair (which she catches in her mouth at the end of the act). It’s a lot like fan fiction or cosplay in that it allows performers to play with their favorite fandoms while bringing their own artistic expression to the table.

(JNC): What inspires you and gets your creative juices flowing?

(XZG): Oh gosh, so many things! With any movie, TV show, stage show, book, or other piece of creative material that I consume, I try really hard to pick out what is done well and what isn’t and what I can take away from that and apply to my own work. I always carry a notebook and pen with me and have been known to jot down notes or little sketches whenever I see or hear something interesting. Some people don’t like it. I think they think I’m not paying attention to them when I do that, but I promise, I am. Maybe too much attention, even.

(JNC): Tell us about your current projects.

(XZG): Well, I’ve been putting a lot of time into creating all of The Society of Sin’s shows for Wizard World next week and have been putting a lot of time into my new Sailor Mars costume for The Crystal Cabaret show 1/6, but today, I’m focusing all of my attention on preparing to host The Society of Sin’s Star Wars Burlesque show this Friday. I’d been planning to host the show dressed as Princess Leia, since both the character Leia and the actress/writer Carrie Fisher are two of my lifelong heroes, but now that Carrie Fisher has passed away, it’s even more important to me that Friday’s show be spectacular. I really want to honor her memory and put together a big celebration of her life, and I know the rest of the troupe feels the same way.

Society of Sin Wizard World Kickoff
Society of Sin Wizard World Kickoff

(JNC): Do you have any future plans or dreams you would like to let us in on?

(XZG): I’d love to tour someday, perhaps with a comic convention like Wizard World, and bring my nerdlesque shows all over the country, or even the world. That’s something I’ve been trying to figure out how to do for a little while now.

(JNC): Can you tell us something weird and wonderful about yourself that your fans might not know about?

(XZG): Last year, I wrote and performed in a sketch comedy Youtube series with my friend Alana Torres called City of No.   Alana recently moved to L.A., but City of No is still online  and we hope to figure out a way to keep making things together, even if it means some traveling.

(JNC): Do you have anything you would like to add? (Upcoming performances? Website? Facebook? Twitter? etc?)

(XZG): Upcoming performances: This week I have 12/30 at 8p & Midnight “The Mos Eisley Cantina Cabaret: A Star Wars Burlesque Revue” at Eiffel Society, and then every Saturday at 7p at The Dragon’s Den I have “Talk Nerdy To Me: A Weekly Nerdlesque Revue” with The Society of Sin (entry $10 cash at the door). Next week, Jan. 6-8, I’ll be back at Wizard World Comic Con manning The Society of Sin’s booth by day and providing nerdlesque entertainment by night. We’ve got “The Crystal Cabaret: A Sailor Moon Burlesque Revue” Friday 1/6 at 8p & Midnight at The Willow, Talk Nerdy To Me Saturday once again, and a very special show to close out the convention featuring the best of the best in New Orleans nerdlesque entertainment, which you should be on the lookout for more information about.
Twitter/Instagram: @xenazeitgeist

(JNC): Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me. I am looking forward to seeing you at Wizard World New Orleans!

(XZG): Thank you again for interviewing me! I can’t wait!

Stephen Manley on gothic horror film “Ghost Hunters” and beyond

Stephen Manley - Photo by Ruco used with permission
Stephen Manley – Photo by Ruco used with permission
Stephen Manley has been in the entertainment business for over 40 years in movies and on television.  His credits include classic shows as “All in the Family“, “Little House on the Prairie” and “The Love Boat” and movies such as playing the young Spock in “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock” when he was 17 years old.  When Mr. Manley started following our writer’s @weird_review twitter account, he checked in with Mr. Manley and requested an interview.
John N Collins (JNC): Thanks for following me on twitter and for agreeing to do an interview Stephen!
Stephen Manley (SM): My Pleasure, thank you for having me.
(JNC):  Over the years you have accumulated a pretty impressive set of credits, being in some of my favorite shows.  What led up to your becoming an actor?
(SM):My Grandfather, Stephen E. Soldi, got his start in the silent era. His first job was as a Roman soldier in D.W. Griffith’s film “Intolerance.” He stayed active as an actor and stunt man until 1966. He lived with my parents and I after his wife passed and since I was an only child I spent most of my time with him. Much like the relationship between the little boy and the projectionist in “Cinema Paradiso.”  He taught me how to read with film scripts, showed me the enchantment of theatrical makeup, I would study all of his still pictures from the sets he worked on. When I obtained my SAG card (with his help) and was fortunate to be taken by a wonderful agent, Dorothy Day Otis, I had a grounding of the life I was headed into along with a wonderful work ethic that he instilled in me. He unfortunately passed in November of 1974 while I was escaping the crash of “The Hindenburg” at Universal Studios on that huge feature film. However i carry his spirit with me on every audition and job that I book.
 (JNC): I watched the trailer to your new movie, “Ghosthunters” – and it looks great.  Mind telling us a bit about it as a sneak preview?
 (SM): “Ghosthunters” is a wonderful true Gothic horror film written and directed by the talented Pearry Teo. I play Dr. Henry Tanner, whom along with his colleagues Neil, played by David O’Donnell, Jessica, played by Liz Fenning and Neil’s girlfriend Amy, played by Francesca Santoro, attempt to truly capture some agonized spirits that inhabit a beautifully shambled tudor/ gingerbread house. Actresses , Anna Harr , Crystal Webb and Phyllis Spielmann are also there to help us. Everyone gave standout performances.
 (JNC): From the trailer it looks like an excellent choice casting you in it.  Other than that, why would you recommend readers drop what they are doing and watch this movie?
 (SM): Thank you. Though it is produced thru The Asylum, “Ghosthunters” looks to be the company’s first true gothic horror film . The movie is played straight, no camp, no farce, no tongue in cheek. The material Pearry gave us read like a wonderful play. Very character driven and all the actors and actresses brought tremendous depth to their roles. I think your readers will find the film a welcome change. Aside from the performances, the house location itself presented a wonderful stage to work from. A Gothic, Tudor gingerbread built circa 1903-5 located in the historic West Adams neighborhood of Los Angeles. The ambience reminded me of a throwback to the British Hammer films of the 1960’s-70’s but with some Steampunk infused elements that are unique to Pearry’s design and style. There are also some genuinely frightening moments, set in the context created, they should chill people.
"Ghosthunters" July 5th on Vimeo and Amazon
“Ghosthunters” July 5th on Vimeo and Amazon
 (JNC): The trailer shows some pretty creepy looking sets and it really looked like the kind of movie that those who were weak of bladder might want to wear Depend® undergarments.  Was it all Hollywood magic or did you have any weird experiences on the set.
 (SM): There were rooms in the house that nobody in the cast and crew wanted to go in. One was a windowless, pitch black Octagonal study in a remote corner on the lower level of the house that was accessed by a small set of stairs that led down to it . It reminded me of a tomb. I chose this room as my “rehearsal/prep” room when I needed to “go to that place” and “get in character” on my own. Our lovely production assistant Shelby was walking past it when she heard “voices and whispers” emanating from that room. She stopped and terror stricken she crouched to peer into the darkness. As I slowly emerged from the darkness I saw her go white with fear, recover with a “…whoa….oh god..” and head to the production office completely bugged out. So much for method acting. However my 9 year old daughter Morgana visited the house after the shoot and told me she saw a small boy in a vintage little league uniform who smiled and waved hi to her…!!
 (JNC): What else do you have coming up?
 (SM): Following Ghosthunters later in the summer or early fall Rogue Warrior, Robot Fighter starring Tracey Birdsall and directed by Neil Johnson is released. I also play a tormented doctor in this film, but this is a science fiction spectacle. Lasers blasting, dystopian future, great fun and Neil and Tracey are wonderful people, looking forward to RWRF. Also in the works is filmmaker Kris Krainock’sThe Idiot” loosely based on it’s namesake.  I play Joel Wolcott who is a devout optimistic “Panglossian” who is thrust into a corupt set of circumstances……hard to play as I am a lot more hardened than poor Joel but a wonderful opportunity to play against character. I also have a part in writer/actor London Boyd’s “Dealer”, directed by Adam Zielinski, which just made it’s debut at the Las Vegas Film Festival.
 (JNC): Do you have any closing comments?
 (SM): Thank you for the opportunity to speak out. I hope your readers will enjoy these films. Ghosthunters , released on Amazon and Vimeo on July 5th, I believe will be sure to please. Shelby is still recovering…! Please keep up to date with me on my sites:
Stephen Manley on IMDB
Stephen Manley’s Personal Website
Stephen Manley on Facebook
(JNC): Thanks again for getting with me Stephen!
(SM): Your welcome John, keep in touch my friend.
(JNC): I will!

Fantasy fun for a weird and wonderful weekend in Michigan

A friendly maiden offers her hair to climb
A friendly maiden offers her hair to climb

Michigan has a lot to offer residents and visitors to step outside of their normal routine and escape into some fantasy fun. This weekend you can step back in time and enter two realms of fantasy at The Olde World Village in Augusta, Michigan (13215 M-96, Augusta, MI, just north of I-94 between Kalamazoo and Battle Creek) and the Mid Michigan Renaissance Festival in Vassar, Michigan (west of I-75 at 7464 Frankenmuth Rd.)

Story time with the Brothers Grimm at the Mid Michigan Renaissance Festival
Story time with the Brothers Grimm at the Mid Michigan Renaissance Festival

The Mid Michigan Renaissance Festival started last weekend and will continue on Saturdays and Sundays through June 26, 2016 with music, fun food, and fairytail fun. This weekend’s theme is “Pillage the Village” with Vikings and Pirates. In addition to their regular crew of pirates, Vikings, and scalawags, special guests include The Crew of the Pirate Ship Crysta, the Dread Pirate Roberts, The World of Swimming Mermaid School and Andromina The Mermaid.

At the Olde World Village they are having their Steam Dream Expo, Michigan’s longest running Steampunk Convention, this weekend. For those who are unaware, Steampunk is the science fiction genre of the 1800’s, the era of steam engines, dirigibles, clockwork contraptions, with dapperly dressed, dashing gents and gorgeous gals in corsets and other Victorian era finery.

The Olde World Village is decked out for the steampunk crowd which includes an invasion from Lansing’s Capitol Steam, Performances by Eli August and the Abandoned buildings, Bell, Book and Canto, and many others. DJ Vourteque will slinging the steamy tunes when he isn’t doing his duties as MC. If you enjoy things a bit more on the steamy side, make sure you get the VIP pass and hit the more adult orient and after dark events that will go through 10 p.m. and beyond. For a few free samples, check out some past performances from the Olde World Village.

After this weekend the Olde World Village takes a couple weeks off to retool and then returns on July 9th for the BlackRock Medieval Fest and other events through the December so you may want save their event schedule.

Next weekend, in addition to week three of the Mid Michigan Renaissance Festival, an old favorite is being resurrected in Grand Rapids, Michigan as JAFAX 2.0 (Japanese Animation, Film, and Art Expo) at the Amway Grand and DeVos Place Conference Center. Anime and Cosplay fans will be hitting downtown Grand Rapids and enjoying the riverfront ambiance.

For those of a more historical bent, check out Michigan’s Civil War Musters where the Living History reenactors will don more traditional Civil War era wardrobe, roll in the canons, powder up the rifles, mount their steeds and maybe even cut loose later at the Emerald Pheasant. Hastings’ Charlton Park hosts their muster over the weekend of July 16-17. If you have never been to Charlton Park, you are in for a treat as they moved historic buildings to the park instead of tearing them down and it is a beautiful piece of history. Add the canons, costumes and live action history and you will be blown away! Down in Jackson the Jackson Civil War Muster happens on the weekend of August 20-21 and you can expect more guns, canons, horses and soldiers.

Find National Art, Music, Tourism, Celebrity, Steampunk and Geek Culture Examiner John N Collins on social media and let him know you read his article! Instagram, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

Batman V Superman is the Perfect 21st Century Global Superhero Masterpiece

By John R. White

“Non sum qualis eram.”   I am not what I once was.
– Horace

In 1978 I was 14 years old, an avid comic reader, and my comic books stacked across the room.  When I first saw Superman the motion picture, I sat amazed as I did “believe a man can fly.” Chris Reeve was Superman.

I mean 1978 was perfect, and I would be sure to get the soundtrack for my 8 track player, and listen to it while I wrote my D&D character program on my brand new Radio Shack TRS-800. The future would be great, and there would be no terrorism because Jimmy Carter just signed the Camp David Peace Accords. Man, the future was going to be Awesome.

  • Henry Cavill would not be born for five years.

In 1989 I was 25 years old, and when my ex-wife and I finished up our management shifts at the Trumbull mall in Trumbull, Connecticut we went to see the midnight showing of the new Batman movie. We were of course still debating whether or not Michael Keaton could pull it off.

The movie was great but dark, and afterwards I would read all of the debates pro and con in Starlog, and watch them on Entertainment Tonight, which was the YouTube of our generation. Somewhere a seventeen year old Benjamin Geza Affleck-Bold was also sitting waiting for the same movie to start, not realizing that one day he would be wearing the cowl.

That was, of course, 27 years ago when Russia was withdrawing from Afghanistan and Nelson Mandela was still in jail and apartheid still existed.

Welcome to the 21st Century.

Instead of continuing Nolan’s films about the Dark Knight of Gotham, and living under the shadow of Christopher Reeve, Zack Snyder has chosen to approach Legends facing global issues, and it’s about time.

Yes, you can make an argument about how Marvel’s Steve Rogers and Tony Stark are both concerned about how SHIELD is engaging in government oversight, and how the world is concerned about superheroes, but the films have a uniquely American viewpoint. I mean it is Captain America.  You may also listen to the critics say it wasn’t any fun! It was humorless. You’re right, this was neither the Avengers nor Deadpool, nor was it supposed to be.

Thank God.

Dawn of Justice is a thinking person’s film, and if Deadpool can have adult humor, language and nudity then Batman versus Superman can have depth, emotional turmoil and require thought. This is like comparing Kelly’s Heroes to Full Metal Jacket. Yes, they are both about the military, but really that’s about it.

Superman, if he existed, would be a global matter. Where he once fought for truth, justice and the American way, in the 21st century he would have to consider the planetary obligations of his powers. Now imagine that’s your cross to bear. How would you deal with that mentally?

Think about it for a moment. You’re a kid growing up in Kansas, and you suddenly have amazing abilities show up. You go to talk to your mom and dad, who drop the following: ‘You’re really a space alien. We’re not sure what to do with that, so just hide it and hide yourself from the world.’  So you do, until you stumble on the truth, and then space bullies show up, and fight you – and oops, the fight kills 10,000 people.

Paging Dr. Phil.

Superman has two real links to humanity: his parents, and Lois.  That’s the only thing that gives him any humanity to begin from.

No, this is not the optimistic Clark Kent of the 40’s that Siegel and Schuster created; this is his Grandson who has long outlived them. This is a being of mass power that Bruce Wayne has every right to fear, and Lex Luthor would want so desperately to control.

Let’s talk about Bruce Wayne, shall we? Bruce has never been exactly stable, has he?

People need dramatic examples to shake them out of apathy and I can’t do that as Bruce Wayne. As a man, I’m flesh and blood, I can be ignored, I can be destroyed; but as a symbol… as a symbol I can be incorruptible, I can be everlasting.”

Easy there, Bruce.

Again Snyder deftly handles the Batman legend, and shows us something new on film: the Miller-esqe aging Dark Knight Detective. The manor is in ruins, Robin is dead at the hands of the Joker, and yet Wayne Enterprises are doing very well, and through of this the Batman is still fighting, and still unrevealed.

Where Kal-el’s touchstones to humanity are Lois and Martha Kent, Batman’s family is now his employees and obviously Alfred, and thus when the Kryptonian battle kills thousands of his family members Bruce very correctly sees Superman as a potential Zod himself, as evinced by some of his nightmares.

He has the power to wipe out the entire human race and if we believe there is even a one percent chance that he is our enemy, we have to take it as an absolute certainty.”

Bruce Wayne has now seen that Gotham is no longer his patrol ground; all of the earth is, as long as men like Superman and women like Wonder Woman exist, and in making such a realization he has become all the more frightened. Batman has never denied having fear, far from it.

“Bats frighten me. It’s time my enemies shared my dread.”

Batman is all about maintaining control, and does so with fear. That is why Batman wants to break Superman, to make him afraid, or if he can’t make him afraid, then perhaps to destroy him. Batman’s psychosis is such that he believes he can destroy or control the evil in Gotham, and beyond.

Think about some things that were said between Alfred and Bruce.

Twenty years in Gotham. How many good guys are left? How many stay that way?” 

Bruce’s war has been going on since 1996. If we take events of Miller’s Batman: Year 1 as his probable starting point, he was still getting his feet wet in those early years when 9/11 occurred.

Alfred: “That’s how it starts. The fever, the rage, the feeling of powerlessness that turns good men… cruel.”

Much has been said about Batman killing people in this film, and everyone who is griping is failing to realize that Batman killed in the pages of Bob Kane and Bill Finger’s original works, where Batman was pretty much the Punisher with a cape and money. Even Tim Burton’s Batman and Batman Returns showed Batman killing villains. (Bomb in clown pants much?)  To believe that Batman would have the slightest issue with killing terrorists is a tad naïve to a man who started his career flying a biplane with a fifty cal.



Now, let us not overlook either Lex or Diana Prince.

Lex Luthor has had many iterations, from the fully coiffed mad scientist living in a flying city re-animating dinosaurs (Action Comics #23; April 1940) to his recreation as an industrialist in the 1986 Man of Steel Series by artist writer John Byrne. So a new, younger millennial non-Smallville Lex Luthor is fine with me. The fact that Lex is possibly possessing of Asperger’s or Tourette’s syndrome to me is fantastic because it’s giving the character depth, and humanity. The fact that Luthor is Bat-crap insane is, of course, a given.

Wonder Woman’s introduction was amazing, and powerful. Here was a woman shown on stage, where the only reference to her beauty was an aside by Bruce as a cover to get away from being held up. She was at no point seen as sexual being, but a mystery and then as a powerful force of her own, and both an asset and a potential ally. That Wonder Woman is from the Middle East, and is actually played by an Israeli is both a windfall and to be cheered. Kudos, Mr. Snyder.

To conclude, Dawn of Justice is about us, the whole of humanity, as we face the age of terrorism and fear. H.P. Lovecraft once stated, “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” Humanity fears what it does not know and what it cannot understand. The bright and promising 21st century that we all dreamed of, a Roddenberry-ish utopia, was a lie.  We never received it because the Taliban found that fear was the most powerful weapon. We all surrendered our heroes such as Christ, Gandhi, Mandela, and the Dalai Lama for demagogues and State Supervision. We looked to the powerful and entrusted them with our fears.

We hoped for Superman, and got the Bat.

Check it out on the big screen at a theater near you!

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