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Filmmaker Focuses on New Yorker Cartoons

The decline of printed publications is old news; the age of computers has been upon us for quite some time. As magazine sales and subscriptions drop, elements and techniques used in print have evolved to accommodate the shift into a digital world — but not all of them. Print cartoonists are among those now asking themselves a question: How can a craft evolve in the digital world without sacrificing tradition and technique?

"Very Semi-Serious," directed and co-produced by Jacksonville native Leah Wolchok, takes a quirky look at the humor, art and genius of the single panel cartoon. The documentary homes in on the 88-year-old New Yorker magazine and the artists who have helped make it what it is today.

There is a unique likeness between documentaries and cartoons: Both seek to uncover truths about society in an engaging, witty and sometimes confrontational way. Drawn to filmmaking in college, Wolchok said, "it was the beauty of the reality of documentary form that captured my attention."

Diving into this project and interviewing dozens of artists has revealed a lot of hard truths about the nature of the cartoon business, she said.

"Cartoonists face extreme rejection. One out of 15 pieces will be sold, maybe — if they're lucky. It's not uncommon for artists to go weeks at a time without any sold."

The fierce competitiveness of the industry reflects the importance of cartoons; they are no laughing matter.

"Over the last 90 years, the cartoons have represented a chronicle of the world's political issues," Wolchok said. "New Yorker cartoons have provided snapshots of social movements, cultural events and historical controversies for decades."

They are not always laugh-out-loud funny, nor do they always make readers comfortable. Cartoons — specifically those published in the New Yorker — can be subtle, edgy, political statements that shape and express the opinions of generations. 

"People feel a really personal connection to the cartoons …   More


Capital Cities Brought the Beats

The sold-out Capital Cities concert left the crowd at Jack Rabbits sore-footed, sweaty and smiling on the way out the door June 19 at Jack Rabbits.

The indie pop-rock quintet from Los Angeles had the crowd dancing while playing all but three of the songs from their debut album, “In a Tidal Wave of Mystery,” including the hugely popular “Safe and Sound.”

To close out the night, they played a remixed version of “Safe and Sound,” their Cash Cash remix.

Jack Rabbits allowed for an intimacy between fans and the bands, and Capital Cities stayed after the concert to talk with their fans.

The Dog Apollo, a local band from Jacksonville, played a seven-song set — including “Ghost” and “Spirit of the Plain" — to get the crowd on their feet and in the mood to sing and dance the night away.

Capital Cities started from pretty modest beginnings when jingle writers Ryan Merchant and Sebu Simonian met on Craigslist and came together to create the five-man band.

Vocalists Merchant and Simonian were accompanied by the jazzy melodies of Spencer Ludwig on the trumpet and the masterful strumming of guitarist Nick Merwin and bassist Manny Quintero. “Safe and Sound,” their first song, was released as an EP in 2011 and shot to No. 1 on Modern Rock radio.   More


Zeina Salame Brings Iraqi Women to Life

The lights are low, and the chairs frame a circular stage set by a ring of embroidered pillows on a wooden floor. As Zeina Salame walks in and positions herself center stage, a calm settles over the room. With just her words and a flowing black piece of fabric, Salame transports the audience through space and time to Iraq during the U.S.-led coalition invasion. Salame’s one-woman performance of nine different Iraqi women’s stories is transcendent.

As the characters share pieces of their lives with the audience, the desperation in their voices is palpable. A desire like winds that fan the fading embers of the soul emanates from each of these women. Their desire is not just to find freedom but to find peace. Salame loves with these women, she cries with these women, she becomes these women. Each story is her story. Despite language and custom barriers, the dialogue is honest and identifiable.

These women are the surviving remnants of a nation torn by war and unspeakable violence. Through each monologue, we begin to see a clearer picture of what it means to be an Iraqi woman. An artist, a doctor, a 9-year-old girl, a rugged street-woman and a mother are among those who lay out their lives for the world to see.

Recounts of torture, shame, confusion and hopelessness are woven together with themes of strength and love. There was laughter along with sorrow and resilience despite the helplessness.

In one of the most powerful scenes, Amal, the artist, is killed by a bombing of her house. Nanna, the rugged street-woman, salvages some of her paintings after the explosion. All of Amal — her beauty, her rebellion, her passion — is lost, except for her paintings. However, the value of her life is reduced to $2, the amount Nanna pleads with passersby to pay her for the artist’s work.  

The 5 & Dime Theater Company’s production was accompanied by complimentary authentic Middle-eastern dishes of stuffed grape leaves, …   More


UNF Deadbirds Anything But Dead

The University of North Florida rugby football club, the Deadbirds, placed second in a national sevens tournament June 1-2, held by the National Small College Rugby Organization in Philadelphia, Pa.

Eight schools were invited to participate after they won regional tournaments. The teams played three opponents, and four were picked by their records to be in the semi-finals.

The Deadbirds made the semi-finals after going to 2-1, with the lone loss being to Occidental College. They played New England College, which was the only team to go undefeated through that point of the tournament. The game was extremely close and was won on a last-second penalty drop kick. The Deadbirds won 15-14 in a grueling match.

In the finals against Occidental College, the Deadbirds scored first, but Occidental was too fast and talented. They took the lead and controlled the pace of the game until UNF scored two tries late in the game, but it was too late. Occidental won the game 28-15.

The Deadbirds were not disheartened by the loss because they knew how good Occidental was.

“There was definitely some wear-and-tear on our team, but also their coach was a USA Sevens Eagles player back in the day,” Deadbirds captain Steven Krueger said. “That definitely didn’t help our chances. They knew the game better than we did.”

Krueger said the Deadbirds were only practicing twice a week, sometimes only once, before they entered the qualifying tournament.

"I’m extremely proud,” Krueger said. “It was good going from getting 14 guys together to run around and play rugby, not to run drills, to going to second-place in the nation.”

Krueger said the 13-hour trip to Philadelphia was worth it for the Deadbirds and they wouldn’t have been able to make it without the help of their sponsors, Gate Petroleum Company and Republic Services.

Krueger also urged people to attend UNF Deadbirds games later this year when the season …   More


Hurricane Junior Golf Tour Offers Three Tournament Spots to First Tee Players

The Hurricane Junior Golf Tour has given golfers ages 11-18 a chance to play in tournament atmospheres since 2008. The HJGT is based out of Jacksonville and will be hosting the Junior Amateur Golfing Association (JAGA) City Jr. Championship at Deerwood Country Club June 17-18.

Three spots are being offered to local juniors who are members of local Jacksonville area chapters of The First Tee, a program that teaches children the fundamentals of golf and also builds character.

“It’s an honor to be chosen by The First Tee,” 13-year-old Trevor Madridejos said in a press release about the event.

Jeff Willoughby, program director of The First Tee in North Florida, said he hopes the program’s golfers will place well, gaining them and the program some recognition.

“Whether they win or place well, it will bring some light to the competitive golfers we have in our program,” Willoughby said.

While The First Tee prepares players for what they can expect on the course, Willoughby said they are essentially a youth development program.

“We make sure they are prepared for high school graduation,” Willoughby said. “Golf is more in the background as we want them to be more successful on the academic front.”

HJGT will also host a Tour Championship for the first time this year. Players with a win in their respected divisions — boys 11-14 and 15-18 and girls 15-18 — will earn a bid into the November championship.

“It takes a couple of months to prepare for,” said Dan Crowther, director of marketing for HJGT. “It’s one of the tournaments we have in rotation as we do 100 tournaments in a calendar year spanning eight states.”

This City Jr. Championship will host more than 60 participants. The registration fee is $179. The event will be open to the public.

Willoughby said he hopes to continue First Tee's partnership with HJGT.

“By allowing The First …   More


Less Nagging, More Shagging

The lights dimmed to black. A near sell-out crowd went silent as a video started to play. The introduction set the tone for a night of chuckles and bursts of laughter.

An upbeat classic rock song began as the lights rose on a dancing Peter Story. The highly energetic “resident Martian” captured the audience from the start with his quick wit and punny humor. Story attempted to bridge the gap of misunderstanding between men and women.

Story described a date night to which many couples could relate. He mimed through the preparation process humming the "Mission Impossible" theme song. Their night at the opera included a comment that one of the largest women he had ever seen seemed to be singing “the Olive Garden menu,” which earned him a jab in the ribs from his wife. 

Story described the scene at dinner where he excitedly caught the last few seconds of the Oklahoma City Thunder game at the bar. His wife was not happy. “I’m glad you can have more fun with a stranger than me,” Story mocked in a female voice. 

Story asked the audience who all had been married for 10, 20 and 30 years by rounds of applause. The clapping grew fainter with each level.

Picking on a couple in the first row who had been married for 33 years, Story re-enacted their 10th anniversary — one in which the husband “probably forgot.” He described what is known as “guilt charades” when your spouse is upset, but you have no idea why, so a game of charades ensues. 

"I forgot my own 10-year anniversary, which wasn’t a big deal,” Story said. “But my wife remember.” 

He then showed a video by John Gray, author of the book "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus," showing the chemical aspect of men and women’s brains through hilarious animations. 

Relating to the book on several occasions, Story spoke about the four words that describe what men and women need. …   More


Rocking for Music Education

Music education was the buzz at the I love Music Festival June 8. All the artists reinforcedthe importance of music education and schools, including the director of the event, Michael Butler, a “band nerd” himself.

The tour featured Teflon Don, EverSay, K-Lotto, and the headliner, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus. 

“If they are getting ready to cut the football team, that is front page news. If they are getting ready to cut a music teacher, no one knows about it. It is very silent. The I Love Music Tour is here to try to bring that voice out and raise it up,” Butler said in a testimonial during the tour.

Two local artists made names for themselves: SweetLu, who sounded like a mix of Bruno Mars and Wiz Kahlifa, and GudGud, three women who sounded like a modern Destiny’s Child. Both artists are working with the Mighty Music Group, a management and production company.

GudGud sang “U” and had the crowds wanting more. Fans can catch the R&B’s group new single at the end of the summer. GudGud, Britney, Princess and Nina, sang and danced beyond expectations for an amateur band.

Jacksonville Beach native SweetLu's down-to-earth disposition continued even off-stage when he mingled with fans. 

"We have been lucky to have been a part of the I Love Music Tour, both in helping spread awareness for the show and in working with participating artists GudGud and Sweet Lu,” said Christopher Myers, co-founder of Mighty Music Group.

Red Jumpsuit Apparatus took the stage with a roaring crowd ready to hear good music — and they didn't let them down, playing “As I the Enemy,” their No. 1 hit on the U.S Christian rock charts, and “Face Down,” their seemingly most popular song, along with “Reap,” a hit in the WWE wrestling realm.

Red Jumpsuit Apparatus' Ronnie Winter and Duke Kitchens met in an AP music theory class in 2001 and decided to put a band together. Since …   More


'Antiques Roadshow' Rolls into Jacksonville

"Antiques Roadshow" has been on PBS since the late 1990s. It is a show that travels across the country throughout the summer, featuring the antiques of those attending and appraising those items.

This will be show's first trip to Jacksonville, but "Antiques Roadshow" has been to Florida five times previously. Executive Producer Marsha Bemko said they wanted to go to a city they had never been to before, and there are not many places they can go to for the first time anymore.

More than 15,000 people registered to attend the show, but ony 3,000 were randomly selected and given a pair of tickets. If you applied for a ticket online by the deadline, April 8, you can use Ticket Checker to check your ticket status.  

The event begins at 8 a.m., and ticket holders will be admited according to the time on their tickets. The last entrance time is 5 p.m., but the event will not end until all items have been appraised.

Each attendee can bring two items and must bring at least one. There are 20 categories in which the attendees' items will be placed and then matched with an appreaiser. The appraisals can be suspenseful and surprising, as usually items are worth either more or less than they were originally thought to be. 

"We know there will be treasures there, and we want to go find them. And we know that more than 15,000 people want to show us their treasures," Bemko said.

Three episodes will be created from the Jackonville visit, plus a "Junk in the Trunk" episode, which will be aired in the spring TV season starting in January. Bemko suggested subscribing to their newsletter for updates on when episodes will appear.

The show will also record a five-minute segment at Norman Sudios on June 7 called "Roadshow's Most Wanted." In the 1920s, Richard Norman, the founder of the studios, made a number of silent adventure films that broke the racial barrier in the film industry by including African-American actors in positive, …   More


From 'The Real World' to WWE

Mike “The Miz” Mizanin is a WWE wrestler and former reality TV star who was born in Parma, Ohio.

Not only has he been a WWE Champion, but he is also a Triple Crown Champion, a title given to wrestlers who have been the World Heavyweight Champion, World Tag Team Champion and WWE Tag Team Champion. He was also on MTV’s "The Real World: Back to New York" and multiple "The Real World" spin-off challenge shows.

He said he is thankful for the opportunity to be on those shows, because they put him in position to become a WWE wrestler. He was raised in the Cleveland area and is a diehard Cleveland Indians, Browns and Cavaliers fan.

The Miz is a Tim Tebow fan and thinks the Jacksonvile Jaguars should give him a chance. He loves heavy metal music and spoke highly of Bullet for My Valentine and Five Finger Death Punch. However, if you ever run into The Miz in public, don't ask him about LeBron James.

The Miz will be part of the WWE Live event June 9 at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena, headlined by John Cena defending his title against “The Unstoppable” Ryback in a Tables Match.

The Miz will be part of a trio called “The Viper,” along with Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan, and will fight a trio from “The Shield” — Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns. Other notable wrestlers on the card, which is subject to change, are R-Truth, Fandango, Zack Ryder, Antonio Cesaro, Tons of Funk, Team Rhodes Scholars and the Divas.

Folio Weekly: When did you just know you wanted to be a wrestler?

The Miz: When you are a kid, you don’t think you could ever do something like that because the superstars are larger than life. When I realized this is something I can actually do and pursue, it was actually after I got on “The Real World,” because when you grow up in Parma, Ohio, you kind of go to college. After college, you go back to where you live and you get a job and a family. …   More


Scooby-Doo, Who Are You?

The animated American classic "Scooby-Doo" with the medling, mystery-solving gang of teenagers and their talking great dane comes to life in "Scooby-Doo Live! Musical Mysteries."

The cartoon originated in 1969 and is still in production today, a staple in children’s animated television. There may be some superpowers at work aiding the staying power of Scooby and the gang all these years, but whatever has been keeping audiences captivated is one mystery that doesn’t need solving.

Folio Weekly spoke to Cody Collier, a Springfield, Mo., native who plays Scooby-Doo, by phone about his experience on tour.

Folio Weekly: How long have you been performing and perfecting your craft?

Cody Collier: I was really shy as a child all the way up and through middle school, and it wasn’t until high school that I started doing these school plays. Then, it branched out to community theater and stuff like that, and then after graduation I moved to New York to study it — The New York Film Academy acting for film conservatory — and I decided to take dance classes and voice classes and stuff on the side while studying acting in New York for the past year. And after graduating there, I went to the Boston Conservatory and studied musical theater just to get back in the groove of singing and dancing, because I had been acting all year long. And then after I got back to New York, I auditioned for "Scooby-Doo." I’ve been at it for a short amount of time compared to other people.

F.W.: Did you think that you would land the role of Scooby when you auditioned?

C.C.: I wasn’t really sure because whenever I originally saw the casting notice for "Scooby-Doo," I submitted for Scooby, Shaggy and Fred — all three of the lead roles there, and I never heard anything back for a month or so. Then, I saw they had a second casting notice posted and they hadn’t found a Scooby-Doo yet. So I was like “OK, what the heck?” and I …   More