Why We Love the Muppets Like Family

November 21, 2015 at 7:30 am , by Alyce Wilson

In honor of one of my Philcon panels today, “Muppets! Muppets! Muppets!” I am reprinting a piece I originally published on the now-defunct Yahoo! Contributor Network.

The new Muppet movie, “The Muppets,” will relaunch the brand with the classic characters, along with some new faces. After so many years, the Muppets are like old friends — or better yet, like family. So who’s who in our Muppet family?

Kermit the Frog, The Perfect Dad

No matter how perfect your real dad might be, there’s no way he’s as patient, as gentle, and as understanding as Kermit. The soft-spoken father figure of the Muppet clan leads his misfit crew with TLC, offering support and advice where necessary, mediating disputes, and occasionally sending family members to their (dressing) rooms. Even his rage is cute.

Miss Piggy, The Flamboyant Stepmother

Dad remarries to a glamorous diva who never really wanted children to begin with (unless they’re part pig). She insists on being called “Miss Piggy” and will never answer to “Mom.” But at times she is a lot of fun: telling stories about the celebrities she’s met, demonstrating her martial arts skills, and singing us to sleep with operatic bedtime lullabies.

Gonzo, The Weird Uncle

Just about everyone has one: the uncle whose bachelor pad is festooned with a quirky collection of his personal memorabilia, the one who makes archaic references you don’t get but that make your dad go “tsk-tsk.” The guy who has absolutely no idea other people think he’s odd, even while he’s wearing skates, balancing a bowling pin on his head, and juggling chickens. At times, it’s hard to believe he’s related.

Rowlf the Dog, The Cool Uncle

Rowlf is the uncle who’s in a band, gives you backstage passes for his concerts, and teaches you how to play chords. He tells you that you’re talented and introduces you to all his cool music-making friends. Even though Kermit is the perfect father figure, there are times you wish that, instead of plinking away on his wimpy little banjo, he’d rock out on the keyboards with a bluesy growl like Rowlf.

Fozzie Bear, The Daydreaming Older Brother

Ever since he was born, older brother Fozzie was convinced he was destined for greatness. Unfortunately, his chosen profession was comedy, and as everybody knows, Fozzie isn’t terribly funny. But with plenty of support from dad Kermit (after all, he even put Fozzie in his show), Fozzie continues to follow his dreams. He might still be living in his old bedroom, but he knows one day he’ll make it big, get his own place, and bask in the adulation reserved for a star.

Scooter, The Geeky Younger Brother

While Fozzie is a dreamer, Scooter is practical, which is why he helps run the family business, serving as a stage manager for the Muppet Theater. Everybody knows that someday it will be him and not Fozzie who takes over for dad Kermit. He is young but detail-oriented and eager to please. If you need someone to fix your computer, ask Scooter.

Statler and Waldorf, The Wisecracking Grandfathers

Retirement was the best thing to ever happen to Statler and Waldorf; it freed them from any real responsibilities. Now they can just sit back and criticize the world around them. If you listened to just their words, you’d think they hated everything their family does. But as much as they claim that sitting through it is sheer torture, they make sure to get a box seat to every performance.

Philcon 2015 Schedule

November 18, 2015 at 2:33 pm , by Alyce Wilson

Here is my Philcon schedule. I will be attending, even though I am in the midst of mourning my Mom’s sudden death. I need a little normalcy, and an emotional break.

My heart will still be with my family, but I look forward to lots of interesting conversations.

Fri 9:00 PM in Plaza V (Five) (1 hour)

[Panelists: Hugh Casey (mod), Alyce Wilson, James Prego, Robert C. Roman, Debra Baker]

Interacting with strangers doesn’t come effortlessly for everyone.  How do you know when it’s acceptable to jump into a conversation? Just as importantly, how can you know when it’s time to jump out? How do you leave a good impression on someone you want to…impress? And how do you tell whether someone is actually flirting with you or  just being nice?

Sat 10:00 AM in Plaza II (Two) (1 hour)

[Panelists: Suzanne Rosin (mod), Michael McAfee, Christine Norris,  Barbara A. Barnett, Alyce Wilson, Matt Black]

Created in 1955, these characters have been in our lives on various TV shows and movies. Now they are back in a new “sitcom”. Chat with panelist about your favorite muppets,  and their shows. Was it Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, Rigel in Farscape, Dinosaurs, The Muppet Show, the movies, the youtube videos?  Bring your coffee, wear your pjs, and have a good time

Sat 12:00 PM in Plaza VI (Six) (1 hour)

[Panelists: Deborah Stanish (mod), Andre Lieven, Diane Kovalcin, Alyce Wilson]

Why do people pour money into cosplay outfits, post art and comics online for free, and spend hours crafting stories that they have no intent to publish? Why is there such a push in American society to monetize everything we’re capable of, and devalue that which has no price tag on it.

Sat 6:00 PM in Plaza V (Five) (1 hour)

[Panelists: Kyle Williamson (mod), Russ Colchamiro, Alyce Wilson,  James Chambers, Steve Vertlieb, Andre Lieven]

2015 was host to seven live-action television adaptions of superhero comic book properties and the rebirth of the Heroes franchise. Which shows “got it right,” and which ones made you want to write angry letters to the producers?

Sat 8:00 PM in Plaza II (Two) (1 hour)

[Panelists: Siobhan Carroll (mod), Alyce Wilson, Debra Baker, Savan Gupta]

Why have Alice’s adventures through the looking glass remained a classic for so long? What does it have to say to the 21st Century?

5 Must-See Vampire Movies

October 31, 2015 at 8:10 am , by Alyce Wilson

Lesser Known Films for the Vampire Lover

About 20 years ago, I wrote a four-hour radio program about the vampire mythos. In the course of doing research for this show, I watched and read countless vampire movies and stories. Countless vampire movies have been made, ranging from campy to dramatic. Here are a few worth watching.

Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922)

Director: F.W. Murnau

Starring: Max Schreck, Gustav von Wagenheim, Greta Schroder, Ruth Landshoff

Shot on realistic sets in Wismar and Lubeck, Germany, this classic silent film was based on the Bram Stoker novel, Dracula, with minor efforts made to change the names. Therefore, the vampire is called Count Orlock. All copies of the film were ordered to be destroyed due to a legal settlement with the Stoker estate, but a complete copy survived in the possession of one collector.

The special effects are done with simple camera tricks and expressionistic lighting. Even today, however, this film still evokes a feeling of forboding and even terror.

The Spanish version of Dracula (1931)

Director: George Melford

Starring: Carlos Villarias, Lupita Tovar, Barry Norton, Pablo Alvarez Rubio, Eduardo Arozamena

Many people have seen the classic Bela Lugosi version and can quote lines from it. For a brief time in the early days of sound, studios made Spanish versions of movies, starring Spanish actors, instead of simply dubbing the original. The actors used the same sets and sometimes the same costumes, typically shooting at night.

The Spanish version of Dracula is much more compelling and romantic than the Lugosi film, with Villarias as a sensual, charismatic vampire and superior camerawork. Watch both and see if you agree.

The Horror of Dracula (1958)

Director: Terence Fisher

Starring: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Melissa Stribling, Carol Marsh, John Van Eyssen

The British studio, Hammer Film Productions, put out dozens of low-budget horror films that are, nonetheless, beloved by horror film fans for their artistry, acting, scripts, and lush costumes and scenery. This role made the career of well-known character actor Christopher Lee, who up until then had only played minor roles.

Not all of the Hammer Dracula movies are as good as this first one — some are very campy — but this film is justifiably praised for its modern, sexy and dangerous retelling of the classic Stoker novel. Though he’s only on-screen for a short while, Lee’s presence is astounding, and Peter Cushing, another veteran character actor, is unforgettable as Van Helsing.

Vampire’s Kiss (1988)

Director: Robert Bierman

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Alva Restrepo, Jennifer Beals

This is no doubt the cheesiest movie on this list, and it is a personal favorite because of its different take on the vampire movie. Nicolas Cage plays a businessman who meets a woman in a nightclub (Jennifer Beals) whom he believes is a vampire. The question becomes: was she really, or is he simply going insane?

Cage’s hysterics as he deals with the results of his encounter are highly entertaining. The script by Joseph Minion is highly quotable. Just don’t expect to take this film too seriously.

Shadow of the Vampire (2000)

Director: E. Elias Merhige

Starring: John Malkovich, Willem Dafoe, Udo Kier, Cary Elwes, Catherine McCormack.

It’s a good idea to watch Nosferatu before seeing this movie, because it tells the fictionalized tale of the making of that film. According to this account, the actor playing Count Orlock, Mac Schreck, was so convincing because he was, indeed, a vampire. At times black comedy, at times horror film, and at times meta-film about the filmmaking process, the movie easily draws viewers into this isolated, strange world.

Willem Dafoe does a terrific job as Mac Schreck, which is little surprise, since the role was written specifically for him. Udo Kier, incidentally, once played the count himself, in Andy Warhol’s Dracula, a.k.a. Blood of Dracula (1974). This film captures the look of the original amazingly well, and in many ways is just as scary.

Creative Halloween Party Ideas

October 31, 2015 at 7:54 am , by Alyce Wilson

Everyone’s favorite spooky holiday is right around the corner. If you’re planning to throw a Halloween shin-dig, consider spicing up your celebration with some of these ideas.

Dead Man’s Party

Ask your guests to come as their favorite dead celebrity or historical figure. Encourage them to think outside of the box and get as creative as they like. When they arrive, ask them to create a tombstone for their character on a piece of tombstone-shaped cardboard. Display these around the party. Have your guests vote on the best costume and award the winner a door prize, such as a small pumpkin filled with candy or a novelty trophy purchased at a party supply store.

Invasion of the Zombies Party

Tell your guests to wear old clothes they don’t care about, because things could get messy, but don’t give away the surprise. Tell one or two of your guests about your plans ahead of time, and make them up as zombies: First cover the face with white or extremely light pancake makeup. You can also use liquid makeup from a costume store, but cover it with white powder to prevent smearing. Use dark gray or black eyeshadow or Halloween makeup around the eyes to create a sunk-in look. Apply fake blood as desired to the face and clothing. Give them a scissors and encourage them to “zombify” their outfit by creating tears or holes. Used coffee grounds are good for adding a “freshly crawled from the grave look.”

Once they are zombified, encourage them to mingle with the guests. One by one, the zombies will hand each person a slip of paper which reads, “You’ve been bitten. Follow me to complete your zombie transformation.” They will then guide the new zombies into a room set up with makeup supplies, where your guests can zombify themselves. It would be helpful to place a set of written instructions in a prominent place so that each zombie doesn’t have to stay and supervise the next one’s transformation.

By the end of the evening, your entire party will be transformed. Or perhaps two or three guests will find themselves the last surviving humans, surrounded by a throng of zombie hoards.

Haunted House with a Twist

The traditional way to decorate for a party on All Hallow’s Eve is, of course, to create a haunted house. Try these fun alternatives to keep your party interesting.

Haunted Las Vegas

Dim the lights and either use strings of plastic pumpkin lights for lighting or find another safe alternative (avoid candles, since they are easy to knock over accidentally). Cover several tables with green cloth and turn them into gaming tables for Blackjack and Poker. Either ask some friends to serve as dealers or encourage guests to do so themselves. The host or hostess can dress up as an undead casino owner, who will make it clear to guests that they are gambling, not for money, but for their souls!

Haunted Luau

Blend the expected elements for a Halloween and a beach party to produce a hysterical hybrid. Some ideas include using tropical-inspired linens, orchids, and tropical flowers. Offer guests spooky versions of Hawaiian tropical drinks, such as the “Boo Hawaii” (instead of Blue Hawaii). You can find a guide to alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks, and luau food, in this About.com article. Toss around an inflated beach ball, decorated with a marker to look like a Jack-o-Lantern. Create your own leis from craft store supplies, such as a string of autumn leaves or a chain of skulls. Carve a pumpkin for a centerpiece and place it on a “surf board” made of cardboard (or place it on the floor on a skateboard).

Follow these ideas, and your Halloween party will be the talk of the town.

I’m Back!

September 13, 2015 at 3:56 pm , by Alyce Wilson

Time has a way of slipping away, especially when you are the work-at-home mother of a busy 5-year-old, as well as being the editor of a weekly literary magazine (Wild Violet) and the head of Press Relations for Otakon.

I never intended it to be so long between entries, but I intend to get back in the game. In fact, I even have a plan.

When the Yahoo! Contributor Network closed its doors last year, the rights to all of the material I’d published with them reverted to me. I spent weeks laboriously downloading all of my articles, then left them in a folder, unsorted and forgotten.

This week, I began looking through them and discovered quite a bit of “evergreen” material which should still interest readers. My goal is to republish material in this blog related to writing, literature, pets, lifestyle and pop culture. I will republish material related to parenting in my book project blog, BelatedMommy.com.

Occasionally, I will also provide some insights on my latest writing project, a book of essays about my growing boy. If you’re interested in these topics, please consider subscribing to the blog, and you’ll receive a notification every time a new article goes online.

I’m looking forward to a more productive rest of the year!

Felix and the DreamWorld Sample

November 23, 2014 at 8:03 am , by Alyce Wilson

In honor of my children’s reading at Philcon, I am making a free sample of my upcoming short story collection, working title Felix and the DreamWorld Bandits and Other Stories, available via Smashwords. Please check it out and write a review!


Felix Discovers the DreamWorld and Other Stories

In this book for young readers, Felix learns about the DreamWorld from his mother: a place where you can do anything and go anywhere. With a child’s eye for the absurd, he explores this land with his best friends, a robot named Hobart and a dinosaur named Drusus. Felix and his friends fight a dragon, meet a unicorn, and learn that the DreamWorld offers surprises Felix could never have imagined while awake.

Free at Smashwords

My Philcon 2014 Schedule

November 19, 2014 at 2:39 pm , by Alyce Wilson

Here are my scheduled events at this year’s Philcon.

Fri 7:00 PM in Plaza III (Three) (1 hour)

[Panelists: Danielle Ackley-McPhail (mod), Rob Balder, Neil Clarke, Gil Cnaan, Alex Shvartsman, Alyce Wilson]

Panelists discuss what worked, what didn’t and why. How can you promote one to make sure it is a success

Sun 10:00 AM in Plaza VI (Six) (1 hour)

[Panelists: David Sklar (mod), Alyce Wilson]

David Sklar and Alyce Wilson read from their works that are appropriate for younger readers

Yahoo! Contributor Network Ending

July 2, 2014 at 12:10 pm , by Alyce Wilson

It’s the end of an era. Yahoo! has decided to shut down the Yahoo! Contributor Network entirely. I’m not surprised, since they’ve been gradually shutting down a lot of the programs within YCN that gave writers opportunities to make money on top of Performance Payments. The good news is that all rights to my articles will revert to me, allowing me to sell them elsewhere, if possible.

I will be archiving copies of all of my articles as they appeared on Yahoo! for my records. You have until July 31 to go through my profile and check out any articles that interest you, because I will still get whatever Performance Payments accrue during that time.

I’m not actually too upset: writing for Yahoo! was fun, and I got a lot of great comments from editors over the years. But this would be a good time to turn my focus towards writing projects that could potentially earn me more per piece.

Thanks for reading and sharing all these years!

My Yahoo! Contributor Network portfolio: http://contributor.yahoo.com/user/alycewilson/

Article: Best Kid Attractions in Old City Philly

July 2, 2014 at 10:58 am , by Alyce Wilson

Here’s the first installment in a short series I’m writing about kid-friendly attractions in Philadelphia, this one focused on Old City. It’s also giving us an excuse to check out a lot of places we’ve never gone before!

The Best Attractions for Kids in Historic Philadelphia

Video: Spring

June 27, 2014 at 2:57 pm , by Alyce Wilson

My third of three poems read for the Lansdowne Public Library. There are a couple audio problems with it, but hopefully you can make it out. Factoid: This poem mirrors the form of a poem I wrote 20-some years ago called “Autumn.”

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