Hi, My name is Randy. It’s been five years and two months since the last time I pledged money to a Kickstarter campaign. This week I achieved closure on that chapter in my hobbyist life at last.
Belated news for the record: the long-awaited code for my digital download of Charlie Kaufman’s stop-motion animated drama Anomalisa hit my email on March 15, 2016, forty-four months after its Kickstarter campaign was launched and thirty-four months after the original promised delivery date to backers who pledged at my level. Part of the delay was due to its expansion from the original proposed short to a full-length feature film. Part of it was because stop-motion is just really hard, probably. Part of it was because the subsequent, unexpected distribution deal with Paramount Pictures threw in a contractual complication that meant many of us had to wait till closer to the home video release date before our technically preordered goods would be distributed.
But it happened at last, and the thing really exists. They followed the wording of the pledge to the letter and delivered on their promises on their schedule. Unfortunately for me, the reward came with a catch. That’s why this follow-up was delayed.
If you’ve never seen an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, I’m really sorry that you’ve been deprived of the pleasure. I missed the first several seasons of its basic-cable run, but the Rhino Home Video releases began in May 1996 at exactly the right moment in my life when, more than any other, I needed powerful reasons to laugh, to overlook emotional pain, and to appreciate sci-fi puppetry. Joel, Mike, Crow, Tom Servo, and the rest of their motley crew were like a shining, snarky beacon through so much real-world darkness. I snapped up every episode as it was released and filled up a few shelves. When I could afford basic cable again circa 1998, I caught up to speed with the Sci-Fi Channel reruns, and the rest is a great time in history for this latecomer MSTie.
Some of its funniest fans were among the first online citizens I met when I discovered the wild world of Internets. My wife and I met several of those odd-fellows in person and quite a few cast members over the past fifteen years — at a St. Louis convention on our 2000 road trip, at Indy Pop Con 2014, and at C2E2 2015. It’s been kind of a wild ride.
Today news broke out across my social circles that MST3K creator Joel Hodgson, with the assistance of the good Samaritans at Shout! Factory (the show’s home-video distributor for the last several years), has obtained the rights clearance to pursue a full-on revival with the same puppets but probably an all-new cast — a bit like the Sci-Fi years in a sense, so some of us are bound to fret and complain till we get used to Tom Servo’s new voice. Rather than rely on modern studio executives to come to their senses and right the wrongs committed by their soulless ancestors, Hodgson has launched an ambitious Kickstarter campaign that will allow fans, newcomers, and hopefully kindhearted deep-pocketed investors to determine whether or not the world’s greatest Cowtown puppet show deserves another chance to live and riff.
As a fan, I hope it succeeds and I wish I could help. I also wish there were a way to do it without Kickstarter.
Let it be known for the record that my copy of Mary Lou Lord’s long-delayed next album Backstreet Angels landed in my mailbox on April 23, 2015. This delivery came forty-five months after its Kickstarter campaign was launched and forty-one months after the original promised delivery date. Some of the delays in the last year or so were for totally understandable, disastrous reasons. Some of the delays in the first year or so, not really so much from our Peanut Gallery’s perspective.
But it’s here at last, it’s a thing that really exists, I can stop fuming about it, and it’s mostly kinda pretty if I skip the one song with the F-bomb on it. Sixteen tracks of pleasant jangle-pop that are a mixture of covers and collaborations, with song/writing credits including the likes of the Replacements’ Paul Westerberg, Beat Happening, the Green Pajamas, Nick Saloman from the Bevis Frond (with whom she was hoping to tour for this album at one point), and an ostensible up-‘n’-comer named Matt Minigell, with whom she was really, really excited to co-write and duet.
The first single, “My Buddy Valentine”, is up on YouTube and available on MP3 through Amazon, but I’m partial to her cover of Peter Bruntnell’s “By the Time My Head Gets to Phoenix”. The album itself has no wide-release date and no Amazon listing of its own yet. One of Lord’s last Kickstarter memos indicated this may end up being her last album ever, but as of yet I’ve seen no concrete plans to offer it beyond the disgruntled Kickstarter base.
And that wasn’t the only pokey Kickstarter project to deliver since my last update. Relatively speaking, it’s been a generous half-year for their zero-accountability site.
Paul Hildebrandt needs your help. For over two years the director and his crew have been conducting dozens of interviews, sifting through countless hours of archival footage, knocking at closed D.C. backrooms, stumping for truth, analyzing the facts, looking for root causes, and working hard to bring you Fight for Space, an ambitious documentary about the sorry state of America’s position in the international space race, where things went wrong, why they’re still off track today, and what barriers still stand between humanity and our return to the stars.
I previously wrote about Hildebrandt’s project in July 2012 when I signed on as a backer to his official Kickstarter campaign. His quest succeeded and exceeded his formidable funding goal of $65,000.00, with pledges totaling over $105,000.00. For the next year-plus, Hildebrandt pursued more interviews, hit roadblocks in several areas (including any and all inquiries into Elon Musk’s SpaceX program, which availed him naught), wrapped filming, began post-production, and updated us once every few months when properly badgered.
Then the money ran out. Hildebrandt was taken aback and humbled by the process, but he means to finish what he started. To that end, he’s just launched a second Kickstarter campaign to raise more funds so he can afford to complete his work as he envisions it.
Hildebrandt needs your help, and so do I. You can make a difference and help this important project finish happening, in hopes that it could shed new light on a touchy subject and change minds nationwide. Also, if there aren’t enough backers in this second round of donations, I’m guessing the whole thing collapses and I’ll never see the rewards I’m still owed from his first Kickstarter campaign. I was kind of hoping to have those in hand before I die.
Behold two panels from the cool thing that landed in my mailbox last week: Jamal Igle’s graphic novel Molly Danger. This forty-eight page tale about the responsibilities and hardships of a government-allied teen super-hero is spunky, dynamic, written from the heart, suitable for all ages, and highly recommended for anyone who could use a break from comics about white guys by white guys.
This first volume was made possible through a Kickstarter project that was launched in August 2012. My local comic shop had a copy on the shelf in November 2013. As one of the 1,240 backers whose pledges helped make the project possible, my copy just now arrived, seven months after retailers could sell it and nine months after the original, estimated delivery date of September 2013. Unfortunately for everyone, U.S. Postal Service rates skyrocketed sometime between project launch and project completion, which means shipping/handling costs exceeded what he’d expected. Once the books were printed, Igle mailed out backers’ copies a few at a time whenever he could afford to do so.
It’s a great book and I look forward to seeing future Molly Danger projects, but this aspect of the experience didn’t turn out quite like anyone had hoped.
Igle’s story is ultimately understandable and pretty benign compared to others I’ve faced. Am still facing, in fact.
Hang out at any geek-news site, wait a week or two, and you’re likely to see the latest headline about a Kickstarter fiasco whose broken commitments ended in teeth-gnashing and garment-rending. Here’s a link to a recent one in which things have turned so grim and sour that the Washington State Attorney General’s Office is involved. Since Kickstarter assumes no accountability or liability for its users’ inaction or delinquency, it was only a matter of time before someone began channeling consumer rage into legal threats.
Hi. My name is Randy. It’s been eighteen months since I last gave a single dime to a Kickstarter project.
At the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center in Hutchinson, KS, this sign looms over you as you descend the steps into the main exhibit hall in their basement, where rests a comprehensive collection of rockets, spaceships, and aeronautical paraphernalia from various countries that share an active or tangential history with space travel. Man’s quest for space has been fraught with skepticism, debate, setbacks, and major disasters. “Difficulties” is an understatement.
That basement location is an apt metaphor for the state of American spaceflight today, compared to other agendas and priorities that garner larger headlines and weigh on us more heavily in the moment. What once seemed like a top-shelf objective for purposes of scientific research and frontier exploration is now a set of mostly forgotten toys boxed up and forgotten in some dark corner. A few weird kids still cherish them and try to make the most of them, but no one else is interested in watching them play or buying them better toys.
The Cosmosphere has one small section dedicated to the current state of space travel aspiration, including photos of several independent companies and programs (not just American) dedicated to continuing the work that NASA started but now seems too crippled to pursue alone. I had passing familiarity with Virgin Galactic and SpaceX before we visited the Cosmosphere on this year’s road trip, but I was surprised to see that several other would-be pioneers have tossed their hat into the ring to see what they can make happen.
I’m not surprised at my relative lack of awareness. I first learned about the 2010 mothballing of the Space Shuttle program from a 2009 exhibit at Chicago’s Field Museum. I couldn’t believe that such a declaration of retreat hadn’t somehow caught my attention before. A tiny shuttle diorama had to break the news to me. When events and successes occur in or about space, they tend to be reported in the back section of your few remaining local newspapers (the same section containing “news” such as “College Study Shows Eating Causes Fat”), or in an easily overlooked article link buried among two dozen other such links in the “Stories with Ten Hits or Less” section of your favorite news site. If we’re not actively hunting for space news, our odds of keeping tabs on it by casual happenstance are nil.
Filmmaker Paul Hildebrandt is working on a new feature-length documentary called Fight for Space that aims to update us all on just what happened to the space race, where it is now, who does or doesn’t care, and why America’s support for it has all but withered away. Hildebrandt and his crew have already conducted numerous interviews with scientists and non-scientists alike, with plans and hopes to keep adding more diverse viewpoints to the mix that would push the movie even closer to fairness and balance.
To that end, Hildebrandt launched his Fight for Space Kickstarter campaign last week to fund his efforts beyond the initial investments. At their current rate of acceleration the project should be fully funded by Monday, so a desperate call to arms and wheedling for more money is hardly necessary. Regardless, pledges are still accepted, the reward packages are generous, and I’m curious to see if extra support would make the movie even snazzier.
The Kickstarter page has a short video with excerpts from some of the interviewees already in the can — the likes of Neil Degrasse Tyson, the inimitable Bill Nye the Science Guy, Star Trek: Voyager‘s Robert Picardo, and several studious-looking science guys that some of you probably know and love. (I wasn’t kidding about my ignorance.) The same page also informs us of PBS’ officially piqued interest; shows us a 2013 US government budget projection that would provide NASA with just enough lunch money for half its staff; and links to an hour-long speech from Tyson, who I’m told may be the coolest astrophysicist of all time.
I’m not sure I foresee the Fight for Space campaign becoming another Order of the Stick, but I look forward to seeing this movie, and I wouldn’t mind if they had the chance and the resources to make it even bigger and better. At the very least, maybe they can use the extra petty cash to buy NASA the largest Christmas turkey in the shopkeeper’s window.