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By Philip J Reed
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About this project

There's no shortage of art criticism.  We know that.  Just about any film, television show, album, video game, or anything else is being talked about right now, as we speak, and joining the conversation is easier than it's ever been before.  There's a lot of dialogue about what things mean, and why we like them, but comparatively little about how they affect us as people.

We share a lot of opinions, but often have trouble articulating the psychological, emotional, visceral response we have to those rare pieces of media that shape who we are, that reconfigure our world views, that begin with us seeing life in one way and end with us never seeing anything the same way again.

That's Arts in Entertainment.

With this series of books -- which will continue as long as authors and readers exist to carry it -- each author takes one particular work of art...novel, album, movie, anything at all...and shares the experience of being changed (deeply, urgently, irreversibly) as a result.

The books are as varied as their authors.  They're funny, they're tragic, they're charming.  They're profound and they're silly.  They take sharp turns into memoir, history, interview, self-help, criticism, confession, and psychology. 

They walk you through what it means to have a piece of art fundamentally change who you are, and no two of these journeys are the same.

I'd have that no other way.

The six launch titles, and the authors' own words on them, are as follows:

1) Nathan Rabin: I'm Still Here

It is now apparent that I’m Still Here is a whole lot more than just a movie. I watched it during the meat of a two-week trip I spent following Phish via Greyhound buses across the East Coast and Gothic Midwest. When I watched it in one of a series of interchangeable hotel and motel rooms that had become a weirdly ubiquitous staple of my life, I was in the process of losing my goddamned mind. My brain was a curious and malfunctioning beast wired weird with way too much Molly, pot and LSD and way too little sleep, relaxation or stability.

I recognized all of my debilitating flaws in myself—toxic narcissism, self-obsession, a dependence on alcohol and marijuana that made me feel both vulnerable and powerless, arrogance and an inability to forge genuine, substantive connections with other people due to an almost pathological inability to get out of my own head and my own crippling self-consciousness—in hugely exaggerated, distorted and parodic form.

For all the words that were spilled about I’m Still Here, mostly before it came out, there is so much more left to be said about it. It’s one of the most important and essential artworks of our time, a film that has provocative and insightful things to say about hip hop, cultural appropriation, ego, narcissism, celebrity, reality, the blurry lines between reality and fiction, documentary, method acting, drug addiction and mental illness.

My deep-seated self-hatred and my equally deep-seated self-aggrandizement both processed the movie the same way: they softly but persistently whispered, “This is a movie about you.”

Nathan Rabin was the first entertainment writer of The A.V. Club, the entertainment section of The Onion. He is also the author of four books: The Big Rewind (Scribner), My Year Of Flops (Scribner), Weird Al: The Book (Abrams Image) and You Don’t Know Me But You Don’t Like Me (Scribner), which got four stars from Rolling Stone and made that magazine's and Slate’s lists of the best books of 2013. In 2004 and 2005 he was a panelist on AMC’s Movie Club With John Ridley, a show hosted by the Academy Award winning screenwriter of 12 Years A Slave. A podcasting obsessive, he has appeared on WTF, Sklarbro County, Analyze Phish, How Was Your Week, Mental Illness Happy Hour, Doug Loves Movies, Alison Rosen Is Your New Best Friend, The Fogelnest Files and a bunch of other podcasts, cause that’s kind of his thing, you know, or one of his things, cause he’s got a whole bunch of shit he’s unhealthily obsessed with, and a shocking number are at the core of I’m Still Here and his enduring fascination and identification with it.

2) Catie Osborn: Titus Andronicus

See, the thing is, everyone shits all over Titus Andronicus. Most "real" theatre people and directors and scholars talk about Titus like it's this cute little failure of a play, sort of a violent novelty that you have to do every 12 years when you're working your way through the canon, or, conversely, sort of a Shakespearean answer to the Quentin Tarantino generation, a grand-guignol style freakshow that will sell tickets to the young and alternative.

But most importantly, to me, it is the story of a father and his daughter. My dad died, unexpectedly and really shittily, when I was 20. Titus, somehow, came along at the moment I needed to let go. And I got to. I got to say goodbye to my father for 6 months, in rehearsals and live, 15 times on stage.

And it was hard. But it became, somehow, part of me. Titus, this stupid, shitty show written, most likely, on a pun about pie crusts, is that single constant in my life. I have often lied (most recently on my application letter to grad school), that "Shakespeare" is the constant. But it's not true. Shakespeare is the author. Titus is the constant.

And I would really, really like to tell that story.

Catie graduated from St. Ambrose University in 2011 with a B.A. in Theatre and is enrolled in the American Shakespeare Center/Mary Baldwin College’s Shakespeare & Performance graduate program. Her roles have included Lady Macbeth, Mephistopheles (Faustus), and Lavinia in Titus Andronicus. She is an internationally published writer and slam poet, and has been honored to be a guest speaker to hundreds of students, artists, writers, and teachers (as well as, once, a room full of very confused architects) across the country. She has recently started her own custom armor company, Twisted Rivet, because becoming a blacksmith seemed like a great choice in this economy.

 3) David Black: This is Hardcore, Pulp

Twelve songs about loss, disappointment, sex, revolution, lack of sex, pornography and washing up. Released in 1998, it ought to be a seminal work, but instead it is one that often goes overlooked, due mostly to the popularity of its predecessor, the decade defining Different Class. The Britpop phenomenon of the mid-nineties was dominated by the "Blur versus Oasis" debate. The jury is still out, but Pulp were arguably the eventual winner. In the three years between albums, the Britpop phenomenon came to an end with a whimper and a Spice Girl miming whilst wearing a Union Jack. At a time when we needed them most, Pulp were notable by their absence.

This is Hardcore arrived to a very different welcome. It was darker, it was anthem-less and it was not what people expected. It was what they needed. They didn’t know it. They probably still don’t.

I listened to it again and again, waiting for the rest of you to see sense. You didn’t. I began to despair. I despaired that a work of such quality was being largely ignored. I despaired that even the positive reviews were tinged with a sense of doubt. I despaired at the graffiti sprayed across posters featuring the cover art. I despaired of the entire cover art debate that seemed to me to be almost entirely literally judging a book by its cover. I despaired of the media -- why weren’t the band on TV more? I despaired of the band themselves -- why were they making the wrong choices of which tracks should be released as singles? I despaired of you -- why didn’t you like it? Eventually I despaired of myself -- was I wrong?

David Black is an actor and humorist. He has written articles, comedy sketches and scripts for Noiseless Chatter, Cult Britannia, Behind the Bike Shed, Newsrevue and, Hat Trick TV’s YouTube channel, Bad Teeth. In an act of extreme arrogance, he was forced to reinterpret The Cherry Orchard and write new Chekhov dialogue.

4) Zachary Kaplan: Synecdoche, New York

Synecdoche, New York is a film about life, time, memory, and our struggle to find meaning in our stories and stories in our lives. These ideas always resonated with my worldview, but after my mother took her own life, they began to take on a much greater significance to me.

They began to help me understand her suicide, my grief and my purpose. As I explore the film, I will use it as a compass to guide me through the grieving process as I plumb the emotional depths of the movie and of myself; to do anything less is to not heal fully. My mother is the fourth member of our family to take her own life, after her father, her mother and her brother.

I will intimately discuss ideas in this film as well as my family's sad past, one story illuminating the other. In doing so, I will put myself through an emotional hell -- and, hopefully, come out stronger in the end.

Writing this book is my dealing with it, my therapy. Writing this book is my grief process. Writing this book is my moving on. Writing this book is my ending the cycle.

Zachary Kaplan lives in Brooklyn, where he writes and performs comedy; currently he performs a monthly sketch comedy show as a member of Terrorbird. He also formerly wrote and edited video game journalism for Nintendo Life. He has a Master of Arts in English Language and Literature from the University of Illinois – Chicago.

 5) Philip J Reed: Mystery Science Theater 3000

I've returned to Mystery Science Theater 3000 many times over the years. It's seen me through some of the darkest stretches of my life, and it's bolstered me through some of my most creative. It's a deceptively rich, ahead-of-its-time experience that, if you really think about it, never should have existed.

But it's more than just the funniest show I've ever seen; it's shaped me as a human being, and helped me to understand, on some level that no other person ever could, that it's okay to be what I am: an introvert.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 is a show that comes with a built-in sense of camaraderie. Nobody watching is ever alone. There was always a sense of community, even if it was (and is) a community of isolates. And, hey, so what? Isolates got me. Isolates get you.

The show won't, and can't, last forever. It was an all-too-brief spark that flitted between networks and timeslots, ensuring that an enormous amount of potential fans never saw it. But for those that did, it was a defining experience.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 took the dreck of world entertainment and created around it a safe and welcoming environment. Sure, the main character had to invent his own friends...but that was okay. Sometimes you find your place in the world, and other times you build it yourself.

It looked like the stupidest damned show on television, but was secretly the most insightful.

Philip J Reed is a writer and pop culture blogger. His work has been featured everywhere from Forbes to About.com to Highlights Magazine, in addition to the Lost Worlds of Power fiction anthology, which he also edited. He is active in his charity work for The Trevor Project, and has an unhealthy attachment to worst pop culture imaginable -- he's written longform essays on every episode of ALF for crying out loud. He is the editor of Arts in Entertainment, and looks forward to bringing the series to intelligent readers all over the world.

6) Matt Sainsbury: Hatsune Miku (Stretch goal: $8,000)

Hatsune Miku is a vocaloid; a digital instrument that you plug into music creation software to make noises. What is different about Hatsune Miku is that instead of being a digital piano, violin, drum set or guitar, “she” is a voice that sings lyrics for you.

She has become popular. Very popular. Over 100,000 songs with Miku’s voice being produced to date, at least one million images drawn by fans, and dozens of music videos have only furthered her celebrity. Crypton has even developed screen technology that allows Miku to perform live on stage; she has opened concerts for Lady Gaga, performed with some of Japan’s most popular music artists, and even performed on Letterman.

And that's just the start. There's much to say about the artistic and economic impact, but even more to say about the cultural implications of Hatsune Miku. In fact, because she blurs the boundaries between the unreal and real so much, Miku may well be part of the cultural trend that explains why Japanese men and women aren’t having relationships with one another and producing children.

With this book you will get a first-hand account of why Miku is so popular and why her fans personalise her by referring to her in human terms, rather than as an object (i.e, to fans, Miku is a “she” and not the far more accurate “it”). The implications of this choice of pronoun run deeper than you can possibly imagine.

Matt has been a technology, entertainment and business journalist and editor for 15 years, with a special interest in Asia and Asian culture. He is the founder and editor-in-chief of Digitally Downloaded.net, and is the author of Game Art, published by No Starch Press.

Bonus - Cody Muzio: Street Fighter II (Stretch goal: $9,500)

My first memories involve bouts of Street Fighter II: The World Warrior with my father, the encouragement that came with every loss, and the wisdom that accompanied every (rare) win.

It’s a trivial thing, perhaps, even as far as video games go, but it was the foundation my father would use to build my ways of thought. Whether by forcing me to think through what in life is worth fighting for, by teaching me to face a challenge that seems too big to overcome, or by simply being a dad willing to take time out of his day to do something he didn’t enjoy with a son who did, my father made Street Fighter II more than just an industry-defining game. He made it personal and he made it emotional.

Stories are already told of Street Fighter II's release and its impact, but this story of Street Fighter II is the story of myself, and how I came to be me and continue to become a better me. It’s a story of hope and victory and family and love and despair and loss and loneliness and heartbreak and life and, of course, fighting. 

I think that even those without an affinity for the interactive arts can find something there with which they can relate. After all, I believe there’s a bit of a fighter in each of us.

Cody Muzio spends his days in the realm of political communication and research, his nights behind the counter of a doughnut shop, his late nights playing and writing about video games as a freelance reviewer, his late late nights sleeping, and his mornings wishing his days were only his late nights and late late nights. A former newspaper reporter and editor, his greatest accomplishments include marrying a woman who allowed him to hang a life-size bust of a walrus over their mantle and fathering a daughter who legend says is destined to restore peace to our galaxy. He also makes the best waffles.

Arts in Entertainment

Each title will be between 200 - 300 pages, written with the love and passion you can only expect from great writers who think way too much.  Every book is a unique experience, and a valuable chance to understand the change wrought in another human being by some work of art that won't let go.

Physical and digital copies will be available through major retailers worldwide, but, seriously, you should pre-order it here, because you'll get some goodies out of it and help this to happen for all of the readers and authors who aren't aware of the series yet.

The cover art is designed by Mishi Hime, and is subject to change before publication. Rest assured, though; it'll be brilliant.  And while I'm giving credit, the song featured in the pitch video is "Love the Game" by Benjamin Briggs, used with permission from Twitch Jams.

The series will be professionally edited by Philip J Reed and Austin Ross, with Thomas Whitehead providing eBook design and conversion.  Physical copies will be professionally printed by Frederic Printing of Denver, CO.

Risks and challenges

We are authors, so the biggest "risk" is underestimating the time it takes to write a great book. I have factored in what I feel -- and what the authors agree -- to be a fair turnaround time, but there is always the chance that deadlines will not be met.

I would far prefer to release a great book a little late than a disappointing book on time, and I'm sure you can appreciate that mindset. Having said that, the built-in delay between books (one new release every two months for a year) will allow the sequence to be shuffled around enough that I don't anticipate much delay.

Any delays or alterations will be communicated to backers; you will always be kept abreast of developments as they happen.

The other authors and I will do our best to ensure that you're getting the great series you deserve as readers. If that qualifies as a risk, so be it. Otherwise, I don't foresee any other hurdles to making this a success.

Also, if you're wondering about stretch goals, there's a reason I'm not defining specific ones aside from two additional titles: I want to best optimize the funding we do get.

Based on the amount of money donated to this project, there are many things we can do to increase the quality of the books, from sturdier paper stock to nicer cover materials to increased print runs.

I won't know how to most effectively make these decisions until I know what we have, so rest assured that providing the best reader experience for the funding we receive is our top priority.

And if we go over the goal substantially, that just gives us a nice jump on funding a second series of titles. So that, I'd like to think, is a pretty great incentive all around.

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    Book and beverage combo. Receive the title of your choice in physical format as soon as it is published...along with a limited edition, kinda awesome Noiseless Chatter coffee mug. This INCLUDES a digital copy as an ebook. Estimated delivery varies; it depends on the title you choose, but you're guaranteed to receive your ebook on the day of release. And when you receive your book, you'll have something to drink out of while you read it. TWO DEAD BIRDS. (Includes digital thank you page and my eternal gratitude.)

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    Physical book of your choice, signed and personalized. Receive the title of your choice in physical format as soon as it is published. This INCLUDES a digital copy as an ebook. Additionally, your physical copy will be signed and personalized by editor Philip J Reed and the author of your title. We promise to say nice things about you. Estimated delivery varies; it depends on the title you choose, but you're guaranteed to receive your ebook on the day of release. (Includes digital thank you page and my eternal gratitude.)

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    Physical and ebook subscription, plus mug! Also great value! Receive every title as it is released, on the day of release in ebook format. Physical copies will be mailed to you as well. Experience the entire run of Arts in Entertainment throughout 2017 with prompt delivery of digital copies and beautiful, display-worthy physical copies. What's more, you get a limited edition Noiseless Chatter mug! You can do most things with that! And since it says "Noiseless Chatter" you can read it while you wait for the books! (Includes digital thank you page and my eternal gratitude.)

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    Catie writes you a sonnet. Yes, the author of our book about Titus Andronicus is just incredible enough to write you a personal sonnet. If you've never inspired a poem before, what are you waiting for? You'll receive a physical, signed copy in the mail. Oh, you'll also get the entire Arts in Entertainment series in both physical and ebook form, and you'll be listed on the digital thank you page.

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    Interview an author. Your choice of which! Include it on your blog, youtube channel, website, or anything else you like. This is your chance to ask the questions you want answered, and have an exclusive interview with one of the Arts in Entertainment writers. Oh, you'll also get the entire Arts in Entertainment series in both physical and ebook form, and be listed on the digital thank you page.

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    In-book thank you. Have your name listed as a special thanks within each book in the Arts in Entertainment series. Because, seriously, we appreciate you at least that much. Oh, you'll also get the entire Arts in Entertainment series in both physical and ebook form, and be listed on the digital thank you page.

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    Merry Christmas, from Nathan Rabin's footlocker! Author Nathan Rabin will pull one DVD at random from his collection and send it to you, along with a personalized greeting for Christmas. It could even be a previous My Year of Flops entry. You may hate it! But it's something of his that will become yours. Oh, you'll also get the entire Arts in Entertainment series in both physical and ebook form, and be thanked in-book.

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    Talkin' bout Titus. Author Catie Osborn will call you and speak with you for 10 solid minutes about Titus Andronicus. Not many people in the world know more about the play than she does, so consider this a special, personal lecture from a leading authority, which may just so happen involve her complaining about her day. Whatever she says for 10 minutes, though, she will be saying it only to you, and you should treasure that. Oh, you'll also get the entire Arts in Entertainment series in both physical and ebook form, and be thanked in the books.

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    Personal Pulp. Author David Black will call anyone you like and sing the Pulp song of your choice to them, and then hang up. (There's no guarantee they won't hang up first.) Oh, you'll also get the entire Arts in Entertainment series in both physical and ebook form, and be thanked in the books.

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    Signed, first edition, hardcover copy of Nathan Rabin's "My Year of Flops." Let Nathan walk you through a gauntlet of terribly received films...and discuss which should be revisited, and which are rightfully forgotten. Oh, you'll also get the entire Arts in Entertainment series in both physical and ebook form, and be thanked in-book.

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    Signed, first edition, hardcover copy of Nathan Rabin's "The Big Rewind." It's Nathan's affecting memoir about the protective power of pop-culture, and will make for some great reading while you wait for this series to launch. Oh, you'll also get the entire Arts in Entertainment series in both physical and ebook form, and be thanked in-book.

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    Your own Hatsune Miku song. Let author and Miku-master Matt Sainsbury write and record an all-new song for you, using the Hatsune Miku technology. It'll be yours and yours alone, to use as you see fit. Oh, you'll also get the entire Arts in Entertainment series in both physical and ebook form, and be thanked in the books.

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    Your own Arts in Entertainment cover. Our cover artist Mishi Hime will mock up an Arts in Entertainment cover featuring your name, your subject, and her incredible minimalist design. It will be tailored to the exact specifications of the rest of the series. You can print it, frame it, or stick it on a real book to fool people into thinking you wrote it. Your personal ethics are the only limits! Oh, you'll also get the entire Arts in Entertainment series in both physical and ebook form, and be thanked in-book.

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    Pledge $300 or more About $300

    Join me for drinks and video games! Or coffee and book chat. No, I can't pay for your travel or lodging, but if you can make it to Denver I will take you to a really awesome video game bar and show you how good I am at Ms. Pac-Man. Or I can take you to a nice coffee house and show you how good I am at stilted conversation. Your choice! Oh, you'll also get the entire Arts in Entertainment series in both physical and ebook form, and be thanked in-book. (In order to claim this reward you'll need to be of legal age to visit a bar, and for compliance reasons I cannot buy you a drink. Bottomless cheese fries are on me, though.)

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    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    Dinner and a show...with Catie Osborn. See the play of your choice at the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, Virginia, and discuss it with her over dinner. You'll need to pay whatever travel and lodging costs you incur, but the show and dinner are on her! Oh, you'll also get the entire Arts in Entertainment series in both physical and ebook form, and be thanked in-book.

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    Pledge $750 or more About $750

    Patron of the Arts. With this tier you will be listed in the books as the Patron of the Arts for making this happen. In addition, you will be able to choose the subject of a book for the second series. Any film, album, game, TV show, novel, or other work of art is fair game, and I will personally see to it that an appropriate author is selected. Of course, this assumes that a second series will get funded as well, but a contribution like this sure makes for a great start. Oh, you'll also get the entire Arts in Entertainment series in both physical and ebook form.

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Funding period

- (30 days)